Another landmark UK Fred. Olsen Cruises norovirus compensation case … may hit all cruise companies hard
UK based Fred. Olsen, recognized as a cruise company that targets more mature travelers, has lost its appeal against the original court ruling and has been been told by a British court that it will have to compensate 16 British cruise passengers who fell ill onboard a cruise in 2011.
UK Birmingham County Court’, Judge Owen QC ruled that a group of passengers, whose cruises on board Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca were afftected by the gastric illness problems, are to receive a five-figure settlement.
Judge Owen accepted there were failings on board the Boudicca which caused 12 out of 16 holidaymakers to become ill and that such failings contributed to the loss of enjoyment of all their holidays.
The decision ended a three-year fight against Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Limited, which had repeatedly denied it was responsible for the problems which affected passengers who travelled on board the cruise ship between March to April 2011.
The 16 holidaymakers instructed specialist travel lawyers at Irwin Mitchell after their voyage on the ship in 2011 was affected by norovirus, described by the affected passengers as “ruined” after the majority of them suffered gastric illness symptoms, including diarrhoea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps.
Between 2009 and 2013 Irwin Mitchell has represented more than 200 passengers affected by similar illness problems on board Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca, as well as securing a settlement of £280,000 for passengers on-board the Boudicca 2009 and 2010.
Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Travel Law team say they are continuing to fight cases on behalf of passengers who also suffered illness on-board the cruise ship in 2012 and on behalf of passengers following six cruises in 2013 where liability is denied.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Limited admitted liability subject to causation of illness in respect of claims by passengers in respect of a cruise which took place between 13-27th March 2013.
Many of the passengers included in the successful group legal action following cruises in 2011 were seen by the ship’s medical staff and some were confined to their cabins, with passengers telling lawyers that they were concerned about hygiene procedures on board the ship which included inadequate cleaning of public areas and their cabins.
There were also complaints amongst some of the passengers that despite the illness outbreak, they were not told before boarding of the problems on board.
Experts who gave evidence on behalf of the passengers in court criticised the implementation of the onboard outbreak of illness plan and said that the company, while having a comprehensive and detailed plan to deal with an outbreak of illness on board the ship, failed to implement their procedures effectively to prevent the spread of the illness.
Judge Owen QC found that the fact that there had been repeated outbreaks of illness and incidents of the ship’s crew not complying with the tour operator’s plan that they should have known that there was a problem. The Judge also concluded that Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Limited outbreak plan had been unsatisfactorily implemented.
Clare Comiskey, a specialist International Personal Injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represents the group, said on the Irwin Mitchell web site “This court victory will finally give the passengers who suffered illness during and after trips on the Boudicca cruise ship in 2011 a sense of justice.”
“They booked their trips expecting a relaxing cruise but instead ended up suffering illness often confining them to their cabins for days.”
“It is a shame that Fred Olsen has dragged the case all the way to trial at court but we are delighted that the judge has ruled in our clients’ favour and that our clients will now receive a compensation from Fred Olsen after enduring such terrible times on board the Boudicca.”
“There are strict procedures in place in order to prevent the spread of illness on board cruise ships, which include the need for ships to be subject to an extensive deep cleaning process following reports of problems.”
“It is deeply frustrating that the cruise operator has failed in its duties to its own clients by not implementing its own outbreak of illness plan, particularly when they should have been aware of passengers falling ill on repeated cruises and it is testament to all of our clients in this case that they have been persistent in their pursuit of justice.”
“Whilst nothing can ever fully make up for the suffering they endured during the cruise, this is a great result for our clients and I am very pleased to see that the Court has fully recognised the need for cruise lines to take appropriate steps to prevent passengers from contracting illness.”
“We hope that this outcome will allow our clients to look to the future and put the terrible problems they faced behind them.”
Fred. Olsen says it believes that it made every reasonable effort, in accordance with its approved ‘Norovirus Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan’, to prevent and contain the virus on board Boudicca.
The ongoing successful legislative actions in relation to norovirus claims may well open the door to further significant claims, which may hit cruise companies hard.
Written by John Alwyn-Jones