As solicitors, we always feel we live in interesting times.

There are always unusual cases coming along, like being instructed to defend an injunction, where the applicant was trying to stop my client building a house, only there was no house being built.  Turned out the other side were looking at the wrong bit of land!

Or interesting misconceptions you have to explain away, like when people assume that if they have lived with their other half for a set period of time (usually assumed to be two years) they acquire some kind of legal rights and become common law spouses.  There is no such status in law.

But there has been a general assumption that COVID trumps all.  That if you say you did something, or didn’t do something, because of COVID or something related to COVID, it will magically protect you from anything and everything.  It may be a deadly virus in the real world, but people seem to assume that in the legal world, it is actually a life saver.

Missed your hearing – blame COVID and get a retrial.

Forgot to terminate your tenancy on the right day – say you were ill with COVID and you’ll get an automatic extension of time.

Committed adultery but don’t want your spouse to be able to use that as grounds for divorcing you – explain that it was only because you were stuck in another country due to COVID restrictions so it was circumstances beyond your control.

Unfortunately, initially it was very hard to persuade people that things like this really weren’t going to work, because there hadn’t been many reported cases of how courts and Tribunals were reacting to defences of this type – because of the backlog due to COVID (the irony!) but now we are starting to see that Judges are taking the same common sense approach that they take to most things.  Yes, if you have a GENUINE explanation that relates to COVID they MIGHT take it into account, but it’s never a guarantee.

So the gentleman who refused to return to the office during the first lockdown, due to COVID related fears, and was subsequently dismissed as a result, lost his claim for unfair dismissal.  This probably has more to do with the fact that there was evidence that despite his “fears” he was seen regularly going out without a mask, and was often in the pub.  But it does demonstrate the point – people (or at least some people) think that all they have to do is blame it on COVID (or even just say the word COVID), and they will automatically be successful.  That is definitely not the case.  You may think that courts are stupid, and certainly there are a few strange decisions made from time to time, but none of them are that stupid!

On that basis, if you were thinking of running any kind of claim or defence based largely on COVID (or your up against someone who thinks that COVID is the answer to everything), make sure that you have the facts to back up what you are saying.  For example, can you or they prove that it really was COVID related and that there aren’t any social media posts that will demonstrate the truth!  A bit of research can really go a long way!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  The full service law firm.  The cure for all ills.