Thomas Cook hails “clear message” to dishonest claimants after winning significant sickness claim

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Thomas Cook has successfully defended a holiday sickness claim that it says will send a clear message to dishonest claimants.

The claimants were ordered to pay the operator’s costs because the judge ruled they had been fundamentally dishonest.

The case involved a couple with children aged three and 14-months who booked a 14-day all-inclusive Thomas Cook holiday in Gran Canaria in the summer of 2013.

In May 2016, solicitors Bridger & Co of Landovery, Carmarthernshire, forwarded a letter to Thomas Cook, claiming that the whole family had suffered gastroenteritis on the third day of their holiday as a result of inadequate food hygiene at the hotel. They also claimed that their symptoms had continued until they returned to the UK.

A claim was issued in the county court on July 21, 2016, on behalf of all the members of the family claiming damages of up to £10,000.

However, Thomas Cook argued that the father had completed a feedback form on the flight home, where he indicated that the service on holiday had been good or excellent.

The father told the court that he had only filled in the questionnaire after he had drunk six pints of lager and that he was trying to win a prize draw by handing in the form in to staff.

When they returned home, both parents went back to work the next day and the children returned to nursery.

A judge at Liverpool County Court, found that the claimants’ accounts were “wholly implausible” and that they had not suffered any illness at all. He dismissed their claim and made an order that the couple would have to pay costs of £3,744 within 28 days.

A spokesman for the operator told Travel Weekly that the win was a “significant case, which sends a clear message to claimants”.

“We will not pay claims which we believe to be dishonest, and we will take further action where necessary.”

Thomas Cook UK managing director Chris Mottershead said: “We’re pleased that the judge found in our favour. It’s not comfortable for us to be in court questioning our customers’ credibility, but the significant increase in unreported illness claims being received by the travel industry threatens holidays for all UK customers.

“This case follows an increasingly common pattern for these claims, with a previously unreported illness being raised years after the holiday with no medical or other evidence to support the illness having occurred.

“In these cases, we will not accept liability and we will take further action where we believe it is necessary to protect all of our customers.”

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Marek Handzel

Marek Handzel is the editor of Claims Magazine. Marek welcomes articles, letters, or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing marek.handzel@barkerbrooks.co.uk