Kuoni High Court ruling ‘sets liability precedent’

A High Court ruling which found Kuoni not liable to pay damages to a customer who was raped by a hotel worker could set a precedent for other package tour operators.

An appeal hearing concluded Kuoni could not be responsible for circumstances that could not have been anticipated or avoided, in the case of a woman who was raped by an electrician working at the Club Bentota hotel in Sri Lanka in 2011.

The woman, who was on holiday with her husband, claimed Kuoni was responsible for the actions of the employee under Package Travel Regulations and sued the operator for damages of £29,000. She lost the case and a subsequent appeal at the High Court in April.

Stephen Mason, senior director of Travlaw, said “conventional wisdom” held that operators were responsible for all services a hotel provides.

But he said the Kuoni case appeared to suggest negligence by the hotel had to be proved for the operator to be liable.

Mason said: “What is significant is the finding that only the hotel is a ‘supplier’, as defined within the PTRs, and not its employees.

“It will be interesting to see what impact this has on more conventional cases, like the cleaner who leaves a marble floor wet without any signs, or the chef who ignores hygiene rules and causes illness.”

Kuoni said “the case has implications for the travel industry” and felt on principle it was important to defend its position as it did not believe it could be held responsible for “unforeseen behaviour of one individual” who had been vetted at a contracted hotel.

The operator added: “Kuoni has every sympathy for the claimant and what she has been through.”