On Sunday 22 June 2014 two Britons were killed and two others seriously injured when the driver of the jeep they were travelling in reportedly lost control and left the road. Valerie Olton and Alison Conroy sadly lost their lives and their partners, Michael Horne and Charles Belham, were seriously injured. It is understood Mr Horne suffered a serious brain injury and has been in a coma in hospital in Turkey.
The group were returning from a day excursion to the Saklikent Gorge, a 300 metre deep canyon close to one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations, Fethiye. The accident highlights not only concerns over road safety in Turkey but also the safety of holiday excursions generally.
It is unclear how the group booked their excursion to the Saklikent Gorge but it is not uncommon for such trips to be booked and paid for locally following arrival in resort. Locally booked excursions will not necessarily enjoy the same protections as those booked with the tour operator prior to departure. Holidaymakers who pre-book their excursions in the UK prior to departure will benefit from the protections afforded by the Package Travel Regulations 1992. Under the Regulations, tour operators are liable for the acts or omissions of their employees, suppliers, agents or contractors for any pre-booked elements.
For locally booked excursions the position is even more complicated and who might be liable is incredibly fact sensitive, turning on what was said to the holidaymaker before they entered into the contract as well as any documentation that was provided advertising the excursion. Recent developments in the English courts serve to highlight this with decisions suggesting the tour operator may owe a duty of care in tort even if it is not contractually liable to the holidaymaker as the other party to the excursion contract. This will be the case where the tour operator’s employees, for example the local rep, act in such a way during the excursion so as to assume a duty of care to those holidaymakers travelling with the tour operator.
This is a complex area and liability will often turn on the wording used in the tour operator’s terms and conditions as well as the factual circumstances of any given accident, as is shown by the case of Emma Moore v Hotelpan where Stewarts acted for the successful claimant. The case has helped shape the law in this area by establishing that the tour operator was bound by the terms and conditions set out in its holiday brochure, which accepted liability for its suppliers, even though the snowmobile excursion was booked locally in resort.
Even where the excursion was booked locally it may still be possible to bring proceedings in England where the holidaymaker suffers serious injury and incurs significant ongoing losses upon their return home. Also, where the accident occurs during transit to and from the excursion then general rules on road traffic accidents abroad are relevant.
Stewarts has previously been involved in some of the pioneering cases in this ever-changing and evolving area, for example by clarifying the law on the assessment of damages following an accident abroad in the House of Lords case of Harding v Wealands and then, most recently, in the Court of Appeal case of Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers.
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