'Stomach bug' holidaymakers sueFive families take action against First Choice

18 January 2008

A tour operator is being sued by 23 angry holidaymakers who allegedly suffered from a stomach bug while at a resort in Tunisia, solicitors representing them have said.

Five families decided to take legal action against tour operator First Choice after being hit with a stomach bug, Irwin Mitchell solicitors said.

The firm said in a statement that one family was left suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and headaches.

Stomach bug

The holidaymakers were staying at the three star Houda Golf and Beach Club Hotel last October when they were allegedly struck down by a stomach bug.

Jennifer Walker, 48, and her husband Stephen, 44, had saved £1,600 over two years to take their children Kyle, 13, and 11-year-old Lydia on holiday.

But Mrs Walker, a nurse from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, was struck by the stomach bug Campylobacter, which allegedly left her suffering from stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Her family were also left sick but for a shorter period of time.

It is not known what illness Mr Walker, his children and the other holidaymakers suffered, but further tests are being carried out.

Complaint about food

The families taking legal action also complained that food was served at room temperature while birds and cats were left free to roam the outside eating areas and poolside, the statement continued.

Mrs Walker said in the statement: 'What should have been a dream holiday turned out to be a nightmare. It was a disaster from start to finish. It took four attempts to find a room as every room we were given was already occupied.

'The illness just made things so much worse. When I returned to the UK, I visited my doctor and was subsequently diagnosed with the bacterial infection Campylobacter, and had to remain off work for a week.'

Concern over hygiene

Francesca Sandiford, from the travel law team at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, is representing the holidaymakers.

She said: 'We are very concerned about the hygiene standards reported. As well as the Walker family, we have been informed that potentially many other families at the hotel were also affected by gastric illness.

'This isn't the first time we have taken legal action on behalf of people who have stayed at this hotel. We have in the past won compensation for holidaymakers following a number of separate outbreaks of illness at the hotel over recent years.

'Damages were awarded against tour operators who have a responsibility to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to safeguard the health and welfare of their customers.

'Often simple hygiene measures can make all the difference in avoiding the transmission of illness, which can often lead to long lasting symptoms and sometimes major effects on the quality of life of victims of all ages.'

First Choice

A spokeswoman for First Choice holidays said: 'First Choice is genuinely concerned to learn of any illness reported in our properties, and we would like to reassure all of our customers that their health and safety is of paramount importance.

'First Choice works with all our hotel proprietors to maintain the high standards our customers expect, and our on-the-ground staff's role is to ensure that any problems are rectified immediately.

'First Choice can confirm that the legal department are investigating any claims received regarding the Houda Golf and Beach Club in Tunisia, and will respond appropriately in due course.

'The Houda Golf and Beach Club is, and continues to be, a very popular hotel. We are confident that guests due to travel to the hotel in the future will experience the high levels of quality and standards they expect from a First Choice property.'

Each year Which? Legal Service deals with thousands of complaints from people who have had nightmare holidays.

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