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The Wagatha Christie trial – was litigation the right option?

Author
Fahy Sheila
Sheila Fahy

PSL Counsel

London

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20 May 2022

I have very little interest in footballers, their wives and girlfriends, or who said what about whom on social or mainstream media.

But I am gripped by the litigation between Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney, not least because I cannot believe it has come to this. There are many good reasons why disputes are litigated, and for Vardy, her reputation is obviously one of those reasons.

But litigation comes at a cost – and it is important that this is properly analysed at every stage of a dispute. Even if a party succeeds and gets their fees paid, their laundry will have been washed in public, their witnesses will have had to face cross-examination, and, even if successful as a matter of law, judgments can always contain comments which are unhelpful. The work involved in fighting a case cannot be under-estimated, and the lead-up to the day and the court process itself can be physically and mentally draining. Lawyers will carefully weigh up with their client what is to be gained from pursuing the litigation, and will consider all the alternative options in that calculation.

In a workplace, there are many disputes which can be resolved informally or via mediation, particularly with harassment and bullying or personality clashes. Often a party wants their grievance to be acknowledged or for there to be an apology. If a dispute cannot be resolved informally and turns into a tribunal claim, in most cases there will be attempts to settle right up until the time the parties are going into court. There are other times when a case must be litigated because a general principle is at stake, which may affect the wider workforce, or it would bring the reputation of the employer into disrepute. 

The lesson is to know when to fight, when to settle and when to seek alternative resolution.

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