http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2016/403.html

The defendant's representative failed to attend trial, having been signed off sick for stress by his GP. The trial judge refused an adjournment and entered judgment for the claimant. The defendant appealed against that decision and when that appeal was dismissed, he appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The judge had relied on guidance given in Levy v Ellis-Carr [2012] (which was approved by the Court of Appeal in an earlier decision) that medical evidence should give details of the doctor's familiarity with the party's medical condition, identify with particularity the patient's medical condition (and what prevents him attending trial) and provide a reasoned prognosis (those pre-conditions were held by the judge to be lacking in this case).

The Court of Appeal has now held that the judge had adopted too strict an approach. It held that there is a difference between an application to adjourn a trial (which had been the situation in Levy) and an application to set aside judgment. If an application to set aside a judgment fails, the applicant will have no opportunity whatsoever to have an adjudication by the court on the merits. Accordingly, the guidance inBank of Scotland v Pereira (see Weekly Update 10/11) should be applied and the court should not adopt too rigorous an approach. On the other hand, it is not the case that any assertion by a party, supported by a sick note, that it did not attend the trial for reasons of ill health will be accepted by the court.

On the facts, the Court of Appeal found that the judge had erred in finding no good reason for the defendant not attending the trial and the appeal was allowed.