Four people have been sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for two years, after admitting to making a false holiday sickness claim.
Michael Jameson, 43, Claire Weir, 35, Jane Weir, 38, and Janet Weir, 63, all from Liverpool in England, were convicted of contempt of court at Liverpool High Court after they admitted to inventing the claim, which could have led to a pay out of more than £45,000 ($57,500).
The defendants made the claim after saying they, and four children traveling with them, had suffered from nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting due to food poisoning on an All-Inclusive week-long holiday at the Aqua Magic Rock Gardens in Benidorm in July 2015. They said this was caused by negligence and symptoms resulted in a loss of enjoyment on the holiday.
They were fined £750 ($958) each and ordered to pay the legal costs of Jet2holidays.
The four defendants blamed the advice of their previous solicitors – an accusation disputed by the firms involved – and pleaded guilty at Liverpool High Court.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said it is tackling false sickness claims so holidaymakers do not risk getting involved in such dishonest activity.
“For some time we have warned that making false claims could lead to serious consequences, and this ruling shows how serious they can be. It should leave anyone making a fake sickness claim in no doubt – we will robustly investigate and defend any claims that are dishonest or illegitimate – and the courts will not hesitate to punish anyone engaging in such fraud,” he said.
Evidence against the defendants included social media posts, medical reports that said claimants were still suffering from diarrhea, stomach pain and cramps when posts were uploaded, and hotel records showing consumption of lager, vodka, gin, amaretto and liquor when they were allegedly ill.
David Scott, a fraud partner at Horwich Farrelly, the law firm that investigated the claims on behalf of Jet2holidays, said there has been a reported 500 percent increase in holiday sickness claims since 2013 and only a very small number are thought to be genuine.
“Horwich Farrelly have successfully defended almost 3,000 holiday sickness claims in barely two years and many share the same evidence that we saw in this case. We are pleased that this family accepted that their claims were fraudulent. They saw this as a way of making some easy money at the expense of honest holidaymakers and they will now pay the price for this stupidity,” he said.
The Association of British Travel Agents reported the increase from 5,000 claims in 2013 to around 35,000 in 2016. Since October 2017, at least four other couples have been sentenced or ordered to pay legal costs after making false package holiday sickness claims.
The UK government fixed the legal costs that can be claimed in package holiday sickness claims earlier this year to address the problem. Tour operators must pay prescribed costs depending on value of the claim and length of proceedings, making defense costs predictable and helping them to challenge bogus claims.
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