An interesting use of the law relating to the sale of goods helped a couple whose all-inclusive holiday was ruined by gastroenteritis claim compensation from travel group First Choice recently.
They claimed damages under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 on the ground that the food they ate which made them ill constituted 'goods' which were transferred from the hotel to them and which were not of satisfactory quality, being contaminated.
Normally, such claims are brought under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 based on the negligence of the tour operator's agent (i.e. the hotel). The reason the case was brought under sale of goods law was that there was extensive evidence of the steps taken by the hotel concerned to comply with high hygiene standards and the measures taken were such that it would have proved very difficult to hold the hotel at fault so as to succeed in a claim under the Regulations.
The case went to the Court of Appeal, which ruled that '...in the absence of any express agreement to the contrary, when customers order a meal property in the meal transfers to them when it is served'.
The claimants were awarded damages of £24,000.
However, this case does not mean that all holiday illnesses can lead to claims against the tour operators. The causal link must be clearly demonstrated. The ruling specifically stated that 'in a claim for damages of this sort, the claimant must prove that food or drink provided was the cause of their troubles and that the food was not "satisfactory"...Proving that an episode of this sort was caused by food which was unfit is far from easy.'