Leeds woman receives £4,000 in battle for holiday illness compensation

Holiday gastric illness


A Leeds woman still suffering severe abdominal pains three years after a Mexican holiday was ruined by a serious gastric illness has received interim compensation of £4,000.

Marianne Francey, now 39, and husband Ronnie, 43, of Holland Park Crescent, Leeds, were just four days into their two-week holiday with daughter Jessica, 11, at the Viva Azteca Hotel, Cancun, in summer 2003 when they joined dozens of other guests in being struck down with sickness, diarrhoea and violent stomach pains.

Mrs Francey secured her interim payment from tour operator My Travel with help from solicitor Suki Chhokar, of national law firm Irwin Mitchell, which has offices in Queen Street, Leeds.

Hotel illness

Mrs Francey knew by the time her illness struck she would spend the whole holiday in a wheelchair, with her left leg in plaster, suffering extreme pain, because of a fracture to her left heel and trauma to her right foot. These had been sustained when a tyre blew out on the coach taking their party from the airport to the hotel, causing the floor of the vehicle immediately under Mrs Francey's seat to rupture.

Recalling her experience, Mrs Francey said: This was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime but ended up being the holiday from hell. We'd had a long flight, there was an explosion on the coach and I'd ended up in hospital.

Then, at the hotel, I noticed food was left uncovered and appeared to be re-heated and served on more than one occasion. There were lots of birds flying around, landing on tables and pinching food, and we also saw cats, lizards and insects in the restaurant. Drinks were served in scratched and marked glasses, and crockery and cutlery were often unclean.

Jessica told me that when she went to the pool it had fluff floating on the top, which I took to mean scum.

Swimming pool hygiene complaint

Many guests also reported the swimming pool had litter in it and criticised My Travel's representatives for being unhelpful in dealing with their complaints. They claimed the hotel was unable to cope with the sheer volume of people being taken ill, describing the scene as totally chaotic.

Mrs Francey's case is one of 127 concerning stomach problems sustained at the Viva Azteca three years ago brought against My Travel in a group action by Irwin Mitchell. About 20 are still outstanding and proceedings have now been issued in these.

Overseas travel and sickness litigation specialist Mr Chhokar said: "We're in contact with the company on a daily basis so we hope Mrs Francey's case will be settled fully soon.

"Most of those taken ill complained of vomiting, diarrhoea and severe stomach cramps and although many victims are now fully recovered, around 10 of our clients were so badly affected that, according to medical experts, they'll never make a full recovery.

"Hundreds of people contact us every year with serious complaints about health and hygiene issues at hotels around the world, where they've become ill through no fault of their own. This can be easily avoided if hotels implement correct procedures."