Boxing host loses claim over Fat Duck illness

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Boxing TV host Jim Rosenthal lost a legal bout with chef Heston Blumenthal today as a judge ruled he should not be refunded for a £1,300 meal which left him "disastrously" sick.

The veteran ITV presenter, also known for fronting the channel's coverage of football and motor racing, was one of more than 500 guests who fell ill during the norovirus outbreak at the award-winning Fat Duck last year.

District Judge Tim Parker dismissed Rosenthal's claim at Oxford County Court after hearing he and his dinner companions had already received £6,000 compensation for pain suffered in the wake of the meal.

Rosenthal and his guests were struck down by jelly oysters served as part of a food and wine-tasting evening at the "prestigious" restaurant.

He and his wife, who had been eating with boxing promoter Frank Warren and three other guests, spent a total of £1,346.33 on a "gastronomic evening" in February last year which turned to "catastrophe", the court heard.

The oysters which made them ill had a market value of just 78p each, Rosenthal's counsel, Andrew Sheriff, said.

They were among more than 500 diners who fell ill, forcing the two week closure of the three Michelin starred Fat Duck, in Bray, Berkshire.

Describing the meal as a "total failure", the lawyer said the Fat Duck "entirely failed to provide their side of the bargain".

Mr Sheriff said it would be "artificial and absurd" if his client was only refunded for the ingredients which made them ill.

He added: "All the claimants were violently unwell for several weeks.

"The meal was of negative nutritional value and none of the other ingredients were of benefit ... The meal failed to deliver the benefits the claimant paid for.

"Nutritionally, it was as though they had paid for no meal at all.

"It was not simply disappointing - they were left wishing that had never had the meals.

"Put in graphic terms, they did not even keep the meals down.

"What is the value of a meal that is going to make you violently ill? It must be zero. No one is going to pay for a meal which is going to make them violently ill - so on that basis, he is entitled to get the cost back."

Jonathan Coad, representing the Fat Duck, said Rosenthal should not be refunded the full amount as he had already been "generously" compensated and received costs.

"They have already paid for the pain and suffering inflicted on his guests," Mr Coad said.

He said the food poisonings were a "catastrophe" and "a source of immense sadness and concern to my client".

But the lawyer added: "We all know that eating raw oysters is a perilous activity."

Blumenthal closed his award-winning restaurant after the outbreak of norovirus in February last year and later apologised to the 500 diners who were taken ill.

The "culinary alchemist" said he was devastated by what had happened, and added that he had written a letter to each customer, offering a complimentary meal at the Fat Duck.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) found raw shellfish served at the famous restaurant had been contaminated with human sewage.

It is understood several other parties are pursuing legal action against the restaurant, including another celebrity diner.

The judge later requested written submissions from both parties after Mr Sheriff sought leave to appeal.