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NEWS SPECIAL REPORT


A law firm that has defended 2,000 spurious holiday sickness claims is now pursuing the companies behind them. Ben Ireland reports, a year after the launch of Travel Weekly’s Fight Fake Claims campaign


Hudson: ‘Irrefutable evidence’


Tanzer:‘Good collaboration’


Law firm starts prosecuting ‘dishonest’ claims bodies


A zero-tolerance approach to dubious claims has helped one law firm overturn more than 2,000 made in relation to holiday sickness.


Manchester-based Horwich


Farrelly is now using evidence it gathered to defend tour operators to bring the claims management companies (CMCs) that tried to beat the system to book. Partner Mark Hudson said


the first major hurdle had been convincing operators that taking a firm stance against all claims was a better option than paying out amid fear of racking up huge legal costs. “If you give in from the start,


you’re actively encouraging claims,” he said. “We didn’t believe it was cheaper to settle [out of court]. I accept that was the tour operators’ perception. I just think they were wrong and, really, that’s now been proved.” When Horwich Farrelly looked


at the broader picture, it found companies issuing pre-action disclosures, racking up “huge costs” and “making threats”. Hudson described the behaviour as “utter lunacy from a legal perspective”


and “fishing for information”. So Horwich Farrelly told tour


operators 90% of claims could be fought successfully. “We communicated to claimants


that this was a nonsense tactic. They knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on and applications ended pretty quickly. If any could be bothered to take it to court, we thought they would lose.” All 25 claims that went to court


were defended. Since the dismissals, Horwich


Farrelly has seen the number of claims fall “in their droves”. The firm is now privately


prosecuting “a number of” CMCs


it wants to prove to have been fundamentally dishonest, and has passed information about them, and certain solicitors, to Merseyside Police, the Ministry of Justice and Solicitors Regulatory Authority. Holidaymakers, CMCs and law


firms could face charges of fraud, contempt, dishonesty or offences under theft laws. Prosecutions could lead to exemplary and punitive damages being ordered. “Once these organisations are


involved, it’s a real deterrent,” he said. “We’ve been presented with some really compelling and irrefutable evidence.”


Red Sea wins case brought by a lawyer


A sickness claim brought against Red Sea Holidays by a customer who was a trainee lawyer has been dismissed. The Egypt specialist faced legal action from Gemma Hoyle and her husband. They filed for damages of up to £7,500 after claiming to have suffered from a diarrhoea bug as a result of contaminated food at the Grand Hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh in June 2015. Despite visiting a doctor on her return, Hoyle, who works as a trainee conveyancer for Yorkshire firm Chadwick Lawrence, had no formal diagnosis of the illness. District judge Ackroyd said: “She cannot establish on the balance of probabilities that the food was causative of her illness.”


Abta’s Tanzer hails success so far but is ‘not complacent’


Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer has hailed the success of the campaigns against bogus sickness claims. “I’m really pleased at the


way Abta, the members and destinations worked to have a joint approach in getting the government to change the law,” he said. “We’re seeing some lawyers pulling claims because they can see the attitude the courts are taking.” Tanzer added: “We’re not


complacent. These claims management companies move from area to area and we want to ensure they don’t pop up somewhere else. But we are a long way from where we were.” He said relations with “some


hotel associations”, which felt the UK industry was pushing the costs of claims on to hotels, “are back on an even keel”. Abta launched its campaign


last June, the same month as Travel Weekly’s Fight Fake Claims began. Tanzer said: “We managed to bring everyone together and Travel Weekly’s campaign was part of it in the media just as we were putting arguments to government. It has been a good collaboration.”


12 travelweekly.co.uk 7 June 2018


CLAIMS FIGHT


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