Thomas Cook wins fake holiday sickness case

Sun bathers on beach Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There has been a spike in fake sickness claims by UK holidaymakers, industry bodies say

Travel company Thomas Cook says it has won a legal victory against a fake holiday sickness claim and plans to challenge other such claims in court.

It comes after a family tried to win up to £10,000 in damages for food poisoning on a trip to the Canary Islands.

A judge at Liverpool County Court dismissed the case on Monday after concluding they were not sick.

It follows reports of a "huge rise" in fake sickness claims by UK tourists.

In June, the travel trade organisation Abta launched a campaign to tackle the problem, saying it was "one of the biggest issues that has hit the travel industry for many years".

It said tens of thousands of holidaymakers had made claims in the past year - worth between £3,000 and £5,000 each - despite reported sickness levels in resorts remaining stable.

Speaking after the hearing in Liverpool, Thomas Cook managing director Chris Mottershead said the company would "not accept liability" in such cases.

"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," he said.

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Image caption The claimants said poor food and hygiene at their hotel made them sick

"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."

Thomas Cook said that Julie Lavelle, 33, her partner Michael McIntyre, 34, and their two young children had sought compensation after stating they suffered gastroenteritis on the third day of a two-week holiday in 2013.

The family blamed poor food and hygiene at their hotel on Gran Canaria and said their symptoms continued after they had returned the UK.

Thomas Cook said they did not mention their condition to hotel staff or tour representatives in the resort.

The company also said Mr McIntyre filled out a holiday feedback questionnaire on his flight home and left the section on illness unanswered.

The family's law firm, Bridger & Co of Carmarthenshire, was not immediately available for comment.

Abta said that rules designed to stop a spike in fraudulent whiplash claims have fuelled the rise in holiday sickness reports as they do not apply to incidents abroad.

It said holidaymakers pursuing fake or exaggerated claims risked being barred from resorts or ending up in prison.

In July, the government said it planned to tackle the problem by reducing the cash incentives of bringing such cases against holiday firms.

Justice Secretary David Lidington also said the government wanted to limit the legal costs that travel firms had to pay out for the claims.

"Our message to those who make false holiday sickness claims is clear - your actions are damaging and will not be tolerated," Mr Lidington said.

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