UK: Birmingham County Court decides in broken glass door case

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The Russell family booked a holiday package to Spain. At the time of booking they made clear that they were not seasoned travellers and specifically requested accommodation which was suitable for young children because they took along their 4 year old daughter. They were duly reassured. At the hotel they were allocated to a room with a glass balcony door. Shortly after arrival, while the parents were unpacking, the girl ran towards the door. She failed to realise that it was still shut and collided with it. The glass which was only 5mm thin and not reinforced with any kind of safety film or wiring, broke and caused serious injury.

The Claimant pursued a claim against the tour operator pursuant to the Package (Travel etc) Regulations 1992 based on two primary arguments:

  • the thickness and nature of the glass did not comply with applicable local safety regulations or standards in Spain
  • irrespective of local safety standards, there had been a breach of the duty of care pursuant to what is known as "the Second Limb of Wilson v Best Travel".

The second limb of Wilson v Best Travel (1993) 1 ALL ER 353 is encapsulated in the following passage: "The duty of care of a tour operator is likely to extend to checking that local safety regulations are complied with. Provided that they are, I do not consider that the tour operator owes a duty to boycott a hotel because of the absence of some safety feature which would be found in an English hotel unless the absence of such a feature might lead a reasonable holidaymaker to decline to take a holiday at the hotel in question".

The claimant was successful before the Birmingham County Court in establishing liability under both heads of her argument: The Court found that a reasonable holidaymaker in their position, having been specifically reassured that the room was suitable for a young family, should have been told that the glass was not safety glass and was very thin. It was foreseeable that young children would run around and bump into objects and it was not surprising that the family had sought reassurance in what was there first trip abroad. The judge accepted that had they been given an appropriate warning, they would not have chosen to stay in this particular hotel at all.

Case: Russell v Thomas Cook Tour Operations (2012)

Source: Article by Jack Harding on "Lexology" (© Copyright 2006-2012 Globe Business Publishing Ltd)

X