Pictured Deborah Briton and partner Paul Roberts. Credit: Liverpool Echo.
A law firm explains why it dropped 3,500 holiday sickness cases against the UK’s big three operators as a family is charged with making a bogus £52,000 claim. Ben Ireland and Amie Keeley report
A law firm has dropped 3,500 holiday sickness claims against Thomas Cook, Tui and Jet2holidays.
Law Room said a case in which Tui was ordered to pay out £24,000 to a couple who said they suffered acute gastroenteritis on a First Choice holiday triggered a “seismic change” in its approach.
Although Tui paid out to Dennis and Margaret Wood after their stay at the Gran Bahia Principe Hotel in the Dominican Republic in 2011, the ruling also stated that it is not enough to prove contamination by claiming illness, adding it “might be difficult…in the absence of evidence of others”.
Law Room spokesman Ian Bowden said: “Wood v Tui was the seismic change. After that decision, we reviewed every single [holiday sickness] case.
“The Wood decision is the only thing that should matter to any law firm [dealing with holiday sickness claims].”
Law Room stopped taking new holiday sickness claims from mid-2016 and said the decision has been vindicated by recent media coverage, including Travel Weekly’s Fight Fake Claims campaign.
Thomas Cook said the firm had dropped 1,500 cases against it, while Tui said 1,800 had been dropped and Jet2 about 200.
A Cook spokesman said: “We won’t pay out on claims with no evidence of illness and will take action to protect our customers from the wider problem of false claims. We urge customers who are concerned they’ve submitted a false sickness claim to withdraw it.”
A Tui spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to doing all that we can to put a stop to this activity”.
A Jet2holidays spokesman said: “The number of cases dropped is staggering, and we believe that the legal industry now has an obligation to follow its [Law Room] lead.”
News came as a family appeared in court accused of trying to extort £52,000 from Thomas Cook.
Deborah Briton, 53, and her partner Paul Roberts, 43, claimed via David Norman Solicitors, that they and their two children were ill on two all-inclusive holidays in Majorca. Briton’s other daughter Charlene Briton, 30, submitted a further claim for herself and her young daughter for their holiday.
Last week, the trio pleaded not guilty to six counts of fraud at Liverpool magistrates court.
The case was adjourned until August 10 and the defendants granted bail. If found guilty, they face up to six years in prison.
Cook last week successfully defended a civil claim for £10,000 compensation from Julie Lavelle and her partner Michael McIntyre after a court found them to be “fundamentally dishonest”.
Thomas Cook unveils guide to holiday sickness abroad
Thomas Cook has created a dedicated web page about holiday sickness, featuring a link to a blog and a guide on what to do if you are ill while abroad.
The page includes tips on how to avoid stomach upsets and urges customers to consult a doctor and report sickness to a Cook representative.
In her blog, group head of customer welfare Carol MacKenzie said the current “situation cannot go on” and warns customers not to be “fooled into lying about your experience abroad”.
She added: “It is our responsibility to protect our customers from the actions of a criminal minority. That means making sure our customers understand the risks involved in submitting false claims – no matter what claims firms say.”
The holiday illness guide is available online and is on display in all Cook resorts. It asks customers to report if they are encouraged to put in a false claim.