A British couple who stayed in Playa del Inglés have been ordered to compensate tour operator Thomas Cook after a judge in Liverpool (England) dismissed their false claim for illness suffered on their holiday at a hotel in 2013.
The pair of scammers, Julie Lavelle, 33, and her partner Michael McIntyre, 34, claimed compensation of £10,000 pounds (€11,186.5) for alleged poisoning, sickness, diarrhoea and vomiting suffered by them and their two children during their stay at the Parque Cristobal Hotel in Gran Canaria and alleging that poor food and hygiene at their hotel were to blame claiming that their symptoms continued after their return to the United Kingdom.
They issued their claim in May 2016, nearly three years after the trip, saying that symptoms had continued from the third day, throughout the holiday and until after the family’s return to the UK.
Thomas Cook argued that the father completed and handed in a detailed feedback questionnaire on the four-hour flight home, with an un-answered section on illness, answering most questions about service with ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
He told the court that the inconsistent questionnaire was filled in after he had drunk six pints of lager and that entries were either randomly ticked or ticked to put a favourable gloss on the trip so he would be more likely to benefit from a prize draw incentive for handing in the form.
The mother said her son and baby daughter had diarrhoea and vomiting for around four to five days but that she had not sought treatment, other than self-medicating with dioralyte and Calpol.
She said she had not felt any need to mention the family’s difficulties to hotel staff or Thomas Cook rep at the hotel.
When they returned home, both parents went back to work the next day and the children returned to nursery.
She also told the court that she and her daughter both saw their GP within days, but made no mention of continuing gastroenteritis symptoms.
The judge, at Liverpool County Court, found that the claimants’ accounts were “wholly implausible” and that they had not suffered any illness at all.
The court dismissed their claim and made an order that the couple, but not their children, would have to pay costs of £3,744 within 28 days.
The judge dismissed the complaint and concluded that there was no credible evidence that they or their two children had suffered any such illness on their holidays to Gran Canaria, according to reports in The Times.
Thomas Cook took Julie Lavelle and her partner Michael McIntyre to court, saying that the case was just the first of a number it intends to contend in an effort to curb a culture of fraudulent sickness claims from British holidaymakers. reported The Telegraph
The operator said in a statement: “This is 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 MD 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.”
Under British law, UK tourists can make claims outside their country for up to three years after leaving the region where they spent their vacations.
“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.”
A Thomas Cook spokesman said the company hoped that the judgment is “reflective of increasing judicial awareness of the industry’s concerns about the prevalence of fraud” and “demonstrates that the courts will not sanction dishonest claims, or accept claimants’ evidence at face value”.
Court rules stipulate claimants are only at risk of paying costs even if they lose the case if it can be demonstrated that they had been dishonest.
False claims from British tourists for food poisoning suffered during their holidays in the Canaries multiplied by 1,400% in just one year and have reportedly caused some hotels to have to pay up to 500,000 euros to deal with complaints, creating a scourge for the tourism sector not only in Spain but also in other European destinations such as Italy, Greece or Portugal.
The British government have already announced that they are looking at taking measures to limit the legal costs that companies would face if they go to trial on fraudulent allegations, through a bill that would amend existing legislation, to curb the barrage of false allegations of food poisoning by British tourists after their trips to Spain taking advantage of the lack of requirements for proof when presenting complaints.