Landmark Court Of Appeal Judgment Favours British Tourists Who Have Been Ill On Holiday
The Law of… Reinforcing Your Consumer Rights
At Simpson Millar, we are delighted to announce that a consumer victory has been won in a landmark Court of Appeal case that will greatly benefit holidaymakers in the UK. The holiday illness compensation case against First Choice's parent company TUI will go a long way towards ensuring UK consumers will be able to successfully take legal action against their tour operator for food poisoning contracted at hotels that formed part of their package holiday.
The case will present a wake-up-call to tour operators that think that they can simply "give up" on employing staff that are able to ensure that hotel restaurants are safe.
TUI Argued That They Were Not Responsible
The ruling concerned the parent company of Thomson Holidays and First Choice; TUI Travel PLC, who had been denying liability over a case of holiday illness.
They argued that they weren't responsible for the holidaymaker's gastric illness because the hotel staff had done everything reasonably possible to prevent guests from becoming unwell.
Holidaymakers Suffer Gastroenteritis
The case in question concerned a couple from Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, who stayed at the Bahia Principe in the Dominican Republic in March and April of 2011, having booked an all-inclusive stay through First Choice. It was established that during their stay the couple only ate and drank at the resort, but before long they began to suffer the symptoms of a gastric illness.
They arrived at the Bahia Principe on the 30th March, and by the evening of the 2nd April had begun to exhibit symptoms of Gastroenteritis, resulting in being admitted to hospital on the 5th April for 4 days, before being discharged on the 9th April.
It was found that a bacterial infection had caused the illness, which, due to eating exclusively at the resort during his holiday, the Judge ruled was caused by eating and drinking at the Bahia Principe.
Discussion over the Ownership of Food on Holiday
The Court of Appeal ruling stated that the claim was originally processed under The Package Travel Regulations 1992 (PTRs), as many holiday illness claims are, as it focussed on the improper performance of the holiday as detailed in the contract held between the holidaymakers and TUI.
Representing First Choice, Mr Aldous QC argued that even if the food that was consumed on holiday was indeed contaminated with harmful bacteria, that they could not be held responsible for their condition. It was argued that the term "services" is quite broad and undefined in the PTRs and that the contract they held with TUI could not be deemed as a contract for the supply of goods and services.
In essence, it was argued that as part of their contract with the holidaymakers, TUI had agreed to provide them with access to all-inclusive food and drink, and not the actual supply of those goods, meaning that there was no transfer of property ownership from TUI to them.
Restaurants Can Still Be Held Responsible for Food Poisoning
The case of Lockett v A & M Charles Ltd  was raised during the discussion, wherein a similar scenario arose and the claimant; a Mrs Lockett ordered and ate whitebait that was contaminated at a hotel restaurant. She subsequently suffered a bout of food poisoning, and it was argued that even though the fault did not lie in the cooking process, the hotel restaurant was still to blame for her condition.
This is because of consumer rights laws such as The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and The Sale of Goods Act 1893 which make it clear that when eating in a restaurant there is an agreement in place that the food being sold will be fit for human consumption, or as stated in The Sale of Goods Act 1893; is "reasonably fit for purpose".
Judgment in Favour of Holidaymakers
Ultimately judgement was passed in favour of holidaymakers with the Judge acknowledging that it is clear that a restaurant is expected to serve food that won't cause patrons to suffer food poisoning, whether it has been contaminated in the kitchen or at another stage of the supply chain.
It was agreed that there is an expectation that food will be served as part of a holiday, and while it isn't always made clear that ownership of a meal has been passed to the holidaymaker, they still consume it as they see fit, meaning that any contract they hold with a holiday company is for both goods and services.
What This Means for Holidaymaker Consumer Rights
This is a win for British consumer rights and great news for holidaymakers who, if they instruct the right lawyer, may be able to claim compensation if they can prove the food provided as part of a package holiday caused them illness.
This ruling makes it clear that holiday companies can't get away with selling package holidays to all-inclusive resorts where steps aren't being taken to prevent guests from suffering the effects of holiday ruining diseases.
Find out more about your legal rights
At Simpson Millar, our travel law specialists fight for the consumer rights of holidaymakers throughout the UK, so if you've suffered an illness abroad and want to know more about your rights and how we can help you to claim compensation on a 'no win no fee' basis, then don't hesitate to contact us.
We provide all of our potential clients with a free no-obligation consultation, during which we can advise you of the best course of action.