Hotel successfully defends false claim
A typical package holiday consists of a flight, hotel accommodation and the services of a representative. We have seen how EU Regulation 261/2004 on denied boarding, long delays and cancellation of flights has transformed the legal landscape when it comes to compensation for flight problems – ably assisted by those bogeymen of the travel industry, the claims management companies.
However it remains the case that hotel issues, encompassing both questions of quality and personal injury cases, are still a fertile ground for litigation. A case recently added to the ‘Resources’ section of this website, Jason Platt v OBH Luxury Accommodation Limited illustrates the kind of incident that defendants are faced with. It is an Irish case not an English case, but is it is from a common law jurisdiction and the same principles have been applied as in an English court.
In Platt the claimant fell out of a hotel window that was held to be unsafe. However as a result of a finding that he had been intoxicated at the time, not uncommon for holidaymakers, a deduction of 40% was made for his contributory negligence. More significantly however for the travel industry is that the claim was dismissed altogether because Mr Platt had exaggerated his injuries. Extensive video evidence showed that he was much less disabled than he made out and that he had deliberately misled the court.
Admittedly this is not a package travel case decided under the Package Travel Regulations, or the Irish equivalent, but it does have relevance to the law on package holidays in two respects. First, if this case had been brought against a UK tour operator for an accident that occurred to a holidaymaker on a package holiday taken in Ireland then the case law on ‘local standards’ would apply – in this case the two Irish statutes: the Occupiers Liability Act 1995 and the Hotel Proprietors Act 1963 – which both lay down that the hotelier owes a duty of reasonable care to the claimant.
Secondly, in the light of the current controversy over food poisoning claims it demonstrates that false claims can be combatted. But at what cost? Damages in this case were estimated at up to £1.4m. With damages of such proportions it is clearly worth spending considerable amounts on defending false claims; the problem with the current spate of false claims are that they are so numerous and for relatively smaller sums, making the cost of defending them disproportionate.