In a ruling of great significance to the UK travel industry, a tourist who suffered life-threatening cuts after walking into a plate glass door in her bikini whilst staying at a hotel in Barbados has fought off a travel company’s bid to strip her of her £19,200 damages award.
Virgin Holidays Limited had warned that the pay-out to Moira Japp would create a damaging precedent and oblige tour operators to export tough British health and safety standards to ‘far flung, exotic places’. However, the company was found to have booked Mrs Japp into a hotel where she would not be reasonably safe.
Mrs Japp had been reading a book on the balcony of her room at the luxury hotel, and was wearing only her swimsuit, when the telephone rang and she accidentally walked into a closed set of French windows. The glass shattered and she suffered deep lacerations all over her body which he lawyers said could have cost her her life.
After she launched proceedings, a County Court judge ruled Virgin Holidays 80 per cent liable for the accident – with a 20 per cent deduction for contributory negligence – on the basis that the pane through which Mrs Japp crashed was only one-quarter of an inch thick and was neither toughened nor safety glass.
In challenging that decision, Virgin Holidays argued, amongst other things, that it would cause great difficulties for the UK tourist industry in general if travel agents were obliged to ensure that foreign hotels complied with ‘English notions' of reasonable health and safety standards.
The Court accepted that the trial judge had been wrong to consider the accident in terms of compliance with local safety standards when it happened in 2008, rather than when the hotel was built in 1994. He had also erred in finding that there was a continuing duty to update the hotel so as to comply with developing safety standards.
However, in dismissing the appeal, the Court upheld the judge’s finding that the pane of glass concerned did not comply with local building standards that were customarily followed at the time of the hotel’s construction.
The Court concluded, “The appeal has served to establish an important point of principle in Virgin Holidays’ favour on the question whether, in relation to a structural feature such as the balcony doors, the duty of care falls to be considered by reference to local standards at the date of construction/installation or at the date of the accident. However, Virgin Holidays fails in its challenge to the judge’s finding of fact that the doors did not comply with local standards at the date of their installation.”
The worst thing that anyone expects when they go holiday is lost luggage or bad weather, but as illustrated by this case an accident can happen anywhere, and the effects of it may be life changing.
Holiday makers who have suffered an injury whilst on a package holiday/tour may be able to rely on The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 to bring a claim for compensation against the organiser/retailer of the package under these regulations, as in the above case.
The Regulations apply to packages that are sold (or offered for sale) in the territory of the United Kingdom, which means that protection under them is afforded to consumers regardless of whether they are injured whilst on holiday in the United Kingdom or abroad. There is an expectation under such a package contract that the consumer - i.e. the holidaymaker - will be kept reasonably safe.
Claims for injury may arise from accidents due to unsafe premises, or illness, such as food poisoning. The injury may have been caused at any point during the holiday, so this covers an aeroplane journey or any day trips arranged as part of the package.
If the Regulations do not apply, then the laws of the country where the injury occurred will instead apply, and as limitation periods for bringing a claim in other countries vary it is very important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Veitch Penny has acted successfully for Claimants who were injured whilst on holiday. One example includes a claim for injuries suffered as a result of a driver causing a road traffic collision. This part of the travel was organised under the Package.
If you have been injured whilst on holiday, whether or not you believe that you will be protected by the Regulations, it is very important that you do the following to ensure that you have the best chance possible of making a successful claim:
If you would like to discuss your concerns during a FREE chat, simply click on the 'Request a Call Back' button above and complete the quick enquiry form or call 01392 344800 and let us help.