Lawyers issue court proceedings over major outbreak at luxury Caribbean hotel
Dozens of British families who fell seriously ill at a luxury Dominican Republic hotel have now taken their battle for justice to court - after the tour operator who provided their holidays continues to deny responsibility for the suffering endured despite other holiday firms accepting blame over the same outbreak.
Travel experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell said court action against Thomson was the only remaining course of action after the holiday giant refused to accept it was responsible for the outbreak in 2007 – even though rival firms Thomas Cook and My Travel have already paid out more than £3.7m in compensation to 500 of the law firm’s clients who stayed at the hotel at the same time.
And the law firm is now calling for Thomson (part of the TUI UK Ltd travel group) to take responsibility for the illness suffered by the 44 holidaymakers – including 1 honeymooning couple and 1 couple celebrating their engagement – whose stays at the four-star Bahia Principe in San Juan three years ago were ruined by a major outbreak of illness. The law firm’s clients were all guests at the four-star all-inclusive Caribbean resort between July and August 2007.
Clive Garner, travel law expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Our clients have been unable to leave the distressing events at the Bahia Principe behind them as they are still awaiting a formal apology for their shocking treatment at the hands of their tour operator.
“In many cases our clients were left to fend for themselves in terrible conditions as holiday reps were unavailable or indifferent. There were reports that sewage systems backed up and spilt waste into rooms and vermin were seen in the kitchen and dining areas. Food hygiene standards were appalling: many people reported undercooked food – including chicken and burgers – and chefs were seen to use the same utensils for raw and cooked meats. We even heard reports that sausages that were not eaten at breakfast were cut up and re-served for lunch. The situation was so atrocious that one desperate gentleman started begging for an alternative flight home to England, no matter what airport he had to fly to.
“What adds to our concern is that not only are we acting for clients from 2007 but we have been contacted by people who have fallen ill here for more than a decade and are already receiving calls for help from guests who stayed there in 2010!”
Irwin Mitchell also continues to act for over 400 holidaymakers who are bringing court proceedings against First Choice – also part of the TUI UK Ltd travel group.
Garner added: “Among the many hundreds of TUI UK Ltd customers who we are helping following their disastrous experiences on holiday in summer 2007, there are British guests who suffered illnesses including Shigella, Giardia, Salmonella and E Coli. Many people needed medical treatment, including hospitalisation, and dozens of them continued to suffer long-term effects for several years after flying back to the UK. Many of them have since been told that their symptoms will be permanent.
“Despite similar problems having been reported at the hotel on and off during previous ten years, Thomson continued to take people’s hard-earned money and send them to the resort throughout the 2007 outbreak. That Thomson is, even now, failing to recognise its responsibility is an insult to the holidaymakers who remain haunted by their experience. Many of our clients are very angry about the way that they have been treated by Thomson, not just for allowing the outbreak of illness to occur in the first place but for the way in which they have handled our clients’ claims for compensation. Our clients, many of them children, deserve fair compensation for their illnesses and for the shocking service they received. It is expected that the court proceedings will now finally force Thomson to make full and fair compensation payments to our clients.”
The problems at the Bahia Principe in 2007 followed a series of illness outbreaks at the hotel in previous years. Irwin Mitchell recovered compensation for more than 100 guests who fell ill there in 1997 and has also successfully acted for clients who stayed at the hotel in 2004, 2005 and 2006, as well as for guests who fell ill in 2008.