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High Court Approves Settlements As 150 Holidaymakers Win Legal Battle Over Hotel Illnesses

Salmonella at a luxury Tunisian holiday hotel


Today the High Court in Birmingham has approved settlements in the cases of 38 children from around the UK in their claims against First Choice Holidays and Flights Limited following development of illnesses including Salmonella at a luxury Tunisian holiday hotel.

The court decision brings to an end claims for compensation by more than 150 British holidaymakers after their sunshine breaks in Tunisia were ruined by illnesses and serious infections.

Travel law experts from Irwin Mitchell, who acted for all of the 150 British holidaymakers, today confirmed that the tour operator First Choice was forced to admit liability for the claims, which arose from stays at the Hotel Soviva in Port El Kantaoui.

The travellers complained of diarrhoea and sickness and some contracted serious bacterial infections such as Salmonella and Campylobacter during their stay at the four-star hotel in 2002. Some of the holidaymakers have been left with long term conditions including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) contracted as a result of their initial illness.

Resolution of the children's claims today followed an earlier High Court victory for 12 First Choice guests who stayed at the Hotel. The 12 won more than £78,000 in damages and since then compensation has been agreed for more than 120 other guests.

Christine Lewis, aged 61, from Warrington in Cheshire, was one of those whose case has concluded. She has been awarded £17,000 in damages after her stay at the Hotel Soviva in August 2002 led to her falling ill within a few days of arriving at the hotel with severe stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting.

After returning to the UK, Mrs Lewis visited her GP and needed hospital treatment. She has since been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and told she will suffer from the condition for the rest of her life.

Mrs Lewis said: "I'm happy that First Choice finally settled my case, but I am frustrated that it took them so long to admit that it was their fault. I’m also annoyed that I had to go through giving evidence in Court. All of this could have been avoided if the Tour Operator had admitted liability earlier.

"This is not just about a ruined holiday. I will have to live with the effects of this illness for the rest of my life. Prior to the holiday, I enjoyed gardening and cooking but I now find even simple things like that a struggle."

Steven Young, 42, from Weston Super Mare in Somerset, also fell ill whilst holidaying at the Hotel Soviva in May 2002 and has now been awarded £13,000 in damages.

Mr Young said: "If First Choice had taken care of its customers in the first place and had listened to their concerns, then taking them to Court could have been avoided. First Choice consistently refused to admit that this was their responsibility but I'm pleased that, by taking legal action, I have now won fair compensation."

Clive Garner, Head of Irwin Mitchell's Travel Law Team who represented all of the Claimants in the case, said: "Before liability was admitted and the settlements agreed, First Choice repeatedly denied liability. They continued to refuse to accept that either themselves or the Hotel management were in anyway at fault for the outbreak of illness, despite overwhelming expert evidence that we obtained indicating serious health and hygiene failures at the hotel over several months."

"Some of our clients still suffer illness today and will be left with permanent health problems. While they are delighted with the results of their claims, many of our clients rightly question why their health was put at risk in the first place and why First Choice did not agree to pay compensation at a much earlier stage. This is a very important win for our clients and it should send a clear message to Tour Operators that holidaymakers, their clients, will not tolerate being sent to hotels which make them ill."