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Supreme Court Upholds Holiday Illness Claim

Anyone seeking compensation after having their holiday ruined by illness would be well advised to gather as much evidence as possible in support of their claim. A case that went all the way to the Supreme Court indicates that such evidence will normally be relied on if holiday providers do not challenge it in court.

A man booked a package holiday to Turkey with his wife and son. Soon after the beginning of the holiday, he began suffering from stomach cramps. He spent two days in his hotel room before his symptoms began to improve. Subsequently, however, he began to feel unwell again and he was admitted to hospital for the last few days of the trip. He continues to experience stomach cramps, bloating and other symptoms, which are likely to persist for the rest of his life.

He brought a claim against the package holiday provider, alleging that his illness had been caused by contaminated food or drink at the hotel where he had stayed. A report from a consultant microbiologist was served on his behalf. The holiday provider made criticisms of the report but did not serve its own expert witness report, and the microbiologist was not cross-examined.

Nevertheless, the trial judge ruled that it had not been proved, on the balance of probabilities, that contaminated food or drink had caused the man's illness. The man successfully appealed to the High Court, but the holiday provider then made a further successful appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Ruling on the man's appeal against that decision, the Supreme Court noted that, as a general rule, parties in a case cannot argue that a witness's evidence should be rejected unless that evidence is challenged in cross-examination. The criticisms of the microbiologist's evidence were unfair in that, in the absence of cross-examination, he had no opportunity to explain his reasoning in more detail. The man's appeal was successful.