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Pensioners Take Legal Action After Contracting Virus

Gastric illness contracted in Scotland


20 pensioners who suffered gastric illness on a holiday in Scotland are taking legal action against their tour operator, Cairngorm Travel, after a failure to inform them that the hotel was affected by an outbreak of viral illness.

The pensioners from all over England suffered from gastric illnesses which they believe they contracted from The Duke of Gordon Hotel, situated in the Spey Valley, in the Scottish Highlands.

They claim that their illness could easily have been prevented if they had been informed of the virus and were given the opportunity to make alternative holiday arrangements. However, instead of being told of the outbreak, members of the group claim the outbreak of illness was concealed from them.

It was only when the pensioners arrived at their hotel on 23rd December 2006 that they were provided with a fact sheet providing information relating to Norovirus by an employee of the hotel.  The employee stated that the hotel had been thoroughly cleaned and was now clear of the Norovirus.

Norovirus Outbreak

It appears from correspondence between the tour operator, Cairngorm Travel and the Local Environmental Health Office that the Environmental Health Department had been working with the hotel since 18 December 2006, a clear indication that there had been a problem with Norovirus at the hotel prior to the pensioners’ arrival there.  None of the pensioners had been provided with any information of this fact by their tour operator before their arrival at the hotel.

On arrival, several of the guests were concerned about the risk of contracting illness.  Some guests were also concerned that the hotel had not been sufficiently cleaned and that it appeared to be understaffed.  There have been reports that the same people who they had seen cleaning up sickness, also appeared to be waiting on tables in the evening. In contravention of accepted viral outbreak management procedures, these same staff apparently did not wear appropriate protective clothing when cleaning up sickness.

On 26 December 2006, the hotel manager called a meeting to inform guests that the hotel would be closed that day. The guests were asked to pack their things and told that transport would be arranged for them to leave.  

As some guests left the hotel, they were still suffering with illness.  They noticed that their coach driver, who had also stayed at the hotel, was also suffering with illness and had to be replaced by an alternative driver half way home.

Jenny Brooks a Lawyer at law firm Irwin Mitchell said: “It is appalling that the pensioners were not informed of this virus. I understand that the Tour Operator is the owner of the hotel and should have been aware of the problem that existed there. It was the Tour Operator’s duty to give our clients full information on the hotel and they should have been given the option to pull out of their holiday before they left home. However, this was not the case and the Tour Operator failed to give our clients the information necessary for them to make an informed choice.  This failure directly caused our clients to stay at the hotel and contract illness there.”