Butlin’s norovirus outbreak claim dropped

A case against Bourne Leisure alleging it caused a norovirus outbreak at Bognor Regis Butlin’s in 2011 has been dropped.

Around 400 people were reported to have fallen ill at the resort and a class action involving 219 of them was brought against the company.

Bourne Leisure denied liability claiming its norovirus outbreak policies and procedures were sufficient and had been followed.

The claimants claimed food prepared at the site had caused the outbreak, however, this was proved improbable by a joint expert report submitted by Bourne’s law firm Hill Dickinson and the claim was discontinued.

Dermot King, managing director of Butlin’s said: “Butlin’s is an iconic and trusted British brand and such inaccurate and defamatory claims can be hugely damaging to our reputation as a business.

“We have maintained this was a norovirus outbreak since June 2011. There was not only an outbreak at Butlin’s during this time but also the surrounding area which affected hospitals and local schools.

“The outbreak was extremely well controlled and the environmental health officer visiting the site during the outbreak was satisfied the policies and procedures were being implemented.

“The Butlin’s Norovirus Policy has since been accredited by the Chartered Institution of Environmental Health and the Royal Society for Public Health.”

The claimants’ solicitor issued court proceedings in 2014 and had put forward an offer to settle for £120,000, which could have resulted in costs of £6 million had it been accepted.

Hill Dickinson submitted an expert report with evidence from a microbiologist, gastroenterologist and environmental health officer.

The claimants dropped the case just 10 days before a 15-day trial at London’s High Court was due to be heard by Mr Justice Lewis.

Hill Dickinson partner, David Scott, said: “This is an excellent result for our client and demonstrates the advantages of maintaining a robust defence in circumstances where there can be shown to have been good policies and systems in place, appropriately implemented and evidenced by retained documentation.”

David Waterfield, general counsel for Bourne Leisure, said: “The Hill Dickinson team provided us with fantastic support for the duration of this case.

“We were very grateful for their resilience, tenacity and above all, helpfulness throughout. We were delighted that we had them in our corner.”
Hill Dickinson was the first law firm to successfully defend the first UK class action involving norovirus on board a cruise liner in 2015.

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