A judge in Birmingham has handed a landmark victory to 49 holidaymakers who contracted serious illnesses at a Majorcan hotel after ruling that one of the biggest tour operators in the UK failed to protect their health and safety, lawyers for the holidaymakers said.
The ruling followed a 10 day trial and is the first time an English court has held a tour operator liable for causing cryptosporidium infections in guests staying at a hotel, said solicitors Irwin Mitchell.
The decision by a judge at Birmingham County Court means holiday giant TUI UK is must pay compensation to those who fell ill while staying at the island’s three-star Son Baulo Hotel in 2003, with some – including children – contracting the diseases salmonella and cryptosporidium, a spokeswoman said.
She added: “The tour operator, owner of major names such as Thomson and First Choice, had repeatedly denied it was responsible for the problems which affected the guests over a four-month summer period and have left many still suffering ongoing symptoms.”
TUI accepted it was responsible for the salmonella cases on the eve of the group’s trial in September but continued to deny liability for the cases of cryptosporidium, leading to the hearing, the spokeswoman added.
Judge Worster criticised TUI after hearing that the holiday firm was aware of the problems at the 251-room hotel in Ca’n Picafort but continued to send families there, only for those guests to fall ill as well, a decision he said that was “probably largely motivated by commercial considerations”, the spokeswoman said.
Those who suffered from cryptosporidium alleged that they became ill after using the swimming pool, with some guests seeing faeces in it, while others complained about the way the pool and toilets at the hotel were maintained and cleaned and reported that food was undercooked and served cold.
Clive Garner, head of the travel law team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “While delighted with the judgment and their victory at trial, many of our clients question why TUI UK Limited did not agree to pay compensation years earlier, avoiding the need for legal action.
“The total sums payable would have been significantly lower had TUI accepted our repeated requests for them to admit liability and negotiate settlement of our clients’ cases with us. We hope that they have learned a valuable lesson.”
A Thomson spokeswoman said: “We are very disappointed with the decision as we sincerely believe that we did everything in our power to safeguard our customers’ wellbeing at the time. If no appeal is made we will resolve the claims from our customers as quickly as possible.”