Law: Tourists seek sun and some easy money

Tour operators are facing an increasing number of compensation cases - but are they really justified?

THE CRUCIAL question for many holiday-makers jetting home is not "when can I afford my next vacation", but "how much compensation will I get for this one?".

Lawyers advising package tour companies say that holiday claims are becoming increasingly trivial. Last week, a British tourist failed to win pounds 3,000 in damages after he fell asleep before both his journeys, missing flights to and from Ibiza. In another case, a tourist took legal action when the air crew failed to serve him boiled sweets.

Stephen Mason, a solicitor and partner at the Leeds holiday specialists Mason Bond, who is co-author of Holiday Law, lays the blame for this escalation in "silly claims" at the door of television consumer programmes.

He says programmes like the BBC's Watchdog have "gone completely over the top" in haranguing good companies and products. His comments are backed up by a judge, who a fortnight ago flew out to test a Malta package holiday which was the subject of a compensation claim. Judge Anthony Cleary said that he was "extremely unhappy" with Watchdog, which featured a special report about the holiday company.

Judge Cleary said that the programme was "one-sided", and "produced untested evidence" in a "kangaroo court".

Mason Bond, a firm of solicitors, recently represented a tour company that was being sued by a plaintiff who fell off a stage after being hypnotised in a hotel in Majorca. Mr Mason explains: "The tour operator did not arrange the entertainment, nor advertise or promote it. That's an illustration of how tour operators are being asked to carry the can for all manner of things that happen."

The Brent County Court judge who heard the case in which the plaintiff fell asleep and missed both holiday flights said that a holiday package was a contract. If the company had a duty to provide an adequate holiday, then the consumer also had a duty to be at the airport to catch the right plane.

Peter Stewart, a partner in City law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, represented the holiday company sued for the non-service of in-flight sweets. He argues that consumers now have a "much exaggerated expectation" of what they can win from tour companies. Although the company won the "sweet case", which was dismissed by an arbitrator as "petty and trivial", the company still had to go to the expense of defending the case. The plaintiff had to pay just pounds 40 to issue proceedings and then cover his own travelling expenses.

It has become easier for holiday-makers to sue tour companies. The Package Tour Regulations, which came into force in 1992, made the tour operator in Britain liable for the flight, the hotel and anything else included in the package. Before 1992, many potential litigants were discouraged from suing a foreign tour company or hotel owner, because of the expense and trouble in bringing a case abroad.

Lawyers point out that having a number of potential complainants all flying on the same aircraft, sleeping in the same building, and eating the same food, creates perfect conditions for litigation. A single holiday failing is often the subject of general conversation on the return flight and it doesn't take long for one person to introduce the issue of compensation. Stewart maintains that over the past three years complainants have become "vociferous". He says: "They are encouraging an aggression in the litigation which does not help to resolve matters."

Nevertheless, there are many genuine holiday claims which fail, because they either fall outside the remit of the Package Tour Regulations or are not recognised in the foreign holiday jurisdictions.

Now a European Commission directive is being considered which would ensure that every insurance company had a representative in EU countries. But, because there is no uniform set of rules, a group of personal injury lawyers have set up the Pan-European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers.

A member, John Price, a partner with the Plymouth law firm Bond Pearce, recently advised a Plymouth holiday-maker who had been a passenger in a car driven by an Italian in France, which was hit by another car driven by a Swiss national. This case, says Mr Price, highlights the potential legal minefield for those seeking compensation for accidents abroad.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence