Reasons to Adjourn a Court Case in the UK

Guide to Successfully Adjourn Your Court Case

Adjourning a court case or hearing in the UK requires valid reasons, prompt action and supporting documentation. In this article, our lawyers discuss the grounds that you may request an adjournment, the step-by-step process for applying for an adjournment of a Court hearing, relevant case law to support your application, and frequently asked questions to help you navigate this area effectively.

For personalised advice or assistance, contact our expert litigation team for a Free Consultation today at 0207 459 4037.

Valid Reasons to Request an Adjournment

1. Medical Grounds

If you or a key witness are ill, the Court may grant an adjournment. To support this request, you will need to provide detailed medical evidence including:

  • Identification of the medical professional providing the evidence.
  • Specific details of the medical condition.
  • Explanation of why the condition prevents participation in the hearing.
  • Prognosis indicating when the individual will be fit to attend​​​​.

Example: A claimant suffering from a severe health condition such as cancer may provide a letter from their oncologist detailing the treatment schedule, side effects, and expected recovery time. This documentation would support the need for a postponement until the claimant is medically able to attend.

2. Unavailability of a Key Witness

When a key witness is unavailable, and their testimony is critical to the case, you can request an adjournment. Provide evidence such as witness statements explaining the necessity of their testimony and why they cannot attend the scheduled date​​.

Example: A critical expert witness in a construction dispute is unexpectedly called to testify in another high-profile case overseas. A detailed affidavit explaining their prior commitment and the crucial nature of their testimony in your case can support the adjournment request.

3. Issues with Legal Representation

If your legal representative is unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances, you may request an adjournment. However, you must demonstrate that it is impossible to find a suitable replacement in time​​​​.

Example: A solicitor representing a defendant in a complex fraud case falls seriously ill just days before the hearing. A letter from the solicitor’s firm, explaining the sudden illness and the difficulty in finding another lawyer with the same level of expertise on short notice, would support the request.

4. Insufficient Time to Prepare

If new evidence has surfaced or there have been delays in receiving important documents, you can request an adjournment. Ensure you detail why additional time is necessary for a fair hearing​​.

Example: Documents crucial to a contract dispute are disclosed late by the opposing party. The late disclosure leaves inadequate time for thorough review and preparation. An affidavit from your legal team outlining the importance of these documents and the need for additional time can justify the adjournment.

5. Administrative Issues

Administrative errors or scheduling conflicts that significantly impact your ability to present your case can be grounds for adjournment. Early and detailed applications are crucial in these situations​​.

Example: A clerical error results in your case being scheduled on a date when your primary witness is unavailable. A letter from your legal team explaining the mistake and the critical nature of the witness’s testimony can support the need for rescheduling.

How to Apply for an Adjournment

Step 1: Early Application – Submit your application as early as possible. Late applications are less likely to be granted unless there are exceptional circumstances​​.

Step 2: Prepare Supporting Evidence – Gather all necessary evidence to support your application. For medical adjournments, this includes detailed medical reports. For witness unavailability, provide witness statements and affidavits​​​​.

Step 3: Complete the Application Form – Fill out the appropriate application form (Form N244 for civil cases). Pay the required court fee and include all supporting documents. Ensure that your application clearly explains why the adjournment is necessary and the impact of not granting it​​​​.

Step 4: Notify the Other Party – Send a copy of your application and supporting documents to the opposing party. They may consent to or oppose the adjournment. Their response can influence the court’s decision​​.

Step 5: Court Hearing – If the court deems it necessary, a hearing will be scheduled to discuss the adjournment request. Be prepared to present your case clearly and respond to any questions from the judge​​.

Judge’s Considerations When Dealing with an Adjournment Application

When deciding whether to grant an adjournment, judges consider various factors to ensure that justice is served. These factors include:

  1. Timeliness of the Application: How early the request was made.
  2. Reason for the Request: Validity and importance of the reason for adjournment.
  3. Evidence Provided: Quality and robustness of the supporting evidence.
  4. Impact on Other Parties: How the adjournment affects the other party, including potential prejudice.
  5. Previous Adjournments: History of prior adjournments and reasons for those requests.
  6. Case Complexity: Complexity of the case and the necessity of the adjournment for a fair hearing.
  7. Availability of Alternatives: Possibility of alternative arrangements, such as remote hearings.
  8. Costs Implications: Who will bear the costs associated with the adjournment.

Previous Case Law on Adjournment Requests

Understanding previous court decisions can strengthen your application however each case is dealt with based on its unique facts, and the judge has discretion:

Case Name and CitationKey Points
Bilta (UK) Ltd & Ors v Tradition Financial Services Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 221The Court of Appeal granted an adjournment due to an essential witness’s illness. The court emphasized the importance of a fair trial, stating that the absence of critical testimony would render the trial unfair. The judge noted, “Refusing an adjournment would make the trial unfair, the adjournment should ordinarily be granted even if inconvenient unless that inconvenience was outweighed by injustice to the other party.”
Naylor v University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust [2021] EWHC QB 340The High Court denied an adjournment request due to insufficient reasons regarding legal representation. The court highlighted that alternative counsel could have been arranged. The judge remarked, “The non-availability of counsel came nowhere near providing a basis for adjourning a trial.”
Decker v Hopcraft [2015] EWHC 1170 (QB)This case provided detailed principles for medical adjournments, emphasizing the need for specific and substantial medical evidence. The court stated, “The fact that a party cannot work as evidenced by a sick note does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that they cannot participate in proceedings.”
Levy v Ellis-Carr [2012] EWHC 63 (Ch)Highlighted the court’s discretion in granting adjournments based on medical evidence. The judge noted, “Parties who think that they thereby compel the Court not to proceed with the hearing or that their non-attendance somehow strengthens the application for an adjournment are deeply mistaken.”
Mulalley & Company Ltd v Regent Building Services Ltd [2017] EWHC 2962 (Ch)An adjournment on health grounds was granted, emphasizing the need for comprehensive medical documentation. The court required detailed medical evidence outlining the condition, its impact, and the prognosis.

Our Expertise in Adjournment Requests

Our lawyers have extensive experience in handling adjournment requests across various types of cases. We understand the intricacies involved and have successfully secured adjournments in complex situations, ensuring our clients have the best possible chance to present their case effectively.

If you have a hearing coming up that you would like to adjourn, please do not hesitate to contact our expert lawyers today for a Free Consultation on 0207 459 4037 or complete our calendar booking form below to set up a convenient time for us to discuss your case.

Case Example of Successful Adjournment less than 1 week before hearing

Our client instructed us less than 1 week before the hearing of a bankruptcy petition hearing, our expert lawyers were able to obtain an adjournment of the hearing by consent a few days before the hearing. Our lawyers advised the client to apply for Breathing Space which was granted for a period of 3 months – this halted all enforcement action. We were also able to provide detailed medical evidence to support our client’s physical and mental health issues.

FAQs about Adjournment of Court Cases

What are the risks if my adjournment request is denied?

If your request is denied, you must proceed with the hearing as scheduled. This could result in a less prepared presentation of your case, potentially affecting the outcome. Consulting with our experienced legal team can help strengthen your application.

Can I appeal a decision to deny my adjournment request?

Yes, you can appeal the decision, but it must be based on a legal error made by the judge in their decision. Our lawyers can advise you on the likelihood of success and the steps involved in an appeal.

What costs are associated with an adjournment request?

Costs can include the application fee, legal fees for preparing and presenting the request, and any costs incurred by the opposing party due to the delay. The court may decide who should bear these costs. Our team can provide a detailed estimate based on your specific circumstances.

How does an adjournment affect the overall timeline of my case?

An adjournment can delay the resolution of your case, potentially leading to increased legal costs and prolonged uncertainty. It is essential to weigh these factors and discuss them with your legal advisor to make an informed decision.

Are there alternatives to an adjournment if my request is denied?

If your request is denied, consider alternatives such as proceeding with a different legal representative, requesting a partial adjournment for specific issues, or negotiating a settlement. Our experienced lawyers can explore all available options with you.


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