Tour operator sued over 'holiday in hell'

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Two of the largest recorded legal actions for compensation against a tour operator are being brought by more than 250 people who claim their Caribbean holidays were "sub-standard'' .

The company, First Choice has been served a High Court writ from 115 people, following what they describe as a "holiday in hell" on the Caribbean island of San Andres, while another 140 claims are in the pipeline over a holiday in Margarita.

The 115 holidaymakers, from all over Britain, are seeking hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation following the two-week trip two years ago, which they say, left many of them seriously ill. Brenda Wall, of Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, is heading the group. She claims her 30th wedding anniversary celebrations were ruined on the trip to San Andres.

Mrs Wall said that on arrivalshe was greeted by departing holidaymakers who threw lavatory rolls at her, with the warning: "You're going to need them - welcome to hell."

She and her husband Gary, 60, became so ill on their two-week stay that they could only eat crisps, hard boiled eggs and lemonade.

They blame "unsatisfactory hygiene and sanitation" at their hotel. Mrs Wall, 54, claims to have lost two stones in weight, and the couple say they were sick for months afterwards.

Stuart Henderson, of Birmingham-based solicitors Irwin Mitchell, has submitted a 200-page statement of claim on behalf of the 115 dissatisfied customers.

"This is a welcome development in holiday claims. A group action means that any legal costs are shared, the claimants feel better about the action and ultimately we believe the result will be better for them," said Mr Henderson. His firm is also acting for the group of 140 holidaymakers who are suing First Choice over their stay at Margarita Island.

First Choice has offered various levels of refund. But the group of 115 are demanding a full refund and compensation. The tour operator said yesterday that it would "vigorously contest" the claims.