Warning! The need to advise customers regarding safety

From Atta Legal Advisor - Alan Bowen

As UK members are no doubt aware, there is currently a seven week inquest into the deaths of 30 UK tourists in Tunisia in 2015. It has become clear, if it wasn’t already, that lawyers representing the families affected are seeking to impose liability upon the tour operator, (all the passengers were travelling with TUI who also had links to the management of the hotel) and allege the deaths, although caused by a terrorist, were directly or indirectly the responsibility of the operator.

The basis of the claim appears to be that the operator knew or ought to have known that there was a high risk of terrorism in Tunisia and may have put pressure on the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to avoid changing their advice, which at the time, did not warn against travelling. The company alleges it used a guide to health and safety developed 25 years ago which made no reference to terrorism, obviously because in the early 1990’s it was not seen as an issue for hotels.

At this stage we cannot assume what the outcome of the inquest and the possible apportionment of blame in further legal proceedings may be, but we do believe that it is now vital, if you do not do so already, to warn customers and potential customers, to keep aware of FCO advice before booking and before travelling. This is equally important for other EU based operators who may find similar claims arising in future.

We, therefore, suggest a term such as set out below should be part of every brochure and website selling package holidays where EU law may impose a duty of care to warn customers.

We strongly recommend you review the current travel advice to be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice (amend as necessary for your country of sale) before booking and ensure you remain up to date with this advice before travelling.

Interestingly, the same firm of lawyers successfully sued TUI in the Court of Appeal last month resulting in operators being strictly liable for food poisoning even when there is no evidence of a failure by the hotel to keep reasonable standards of hygiene. This is most likely to arise in lodges where all or most food is provided by the lodge or in all-inclusive beach resorts but is another good reason to satisfy yourself as to the level of public liability insurance you and your suppliers carry.