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Loss of 'local standards' defence could have huge cost implications for tour operators, says expert

Tour operators could be facing "massive cost implications" if the Court of Appeal rules that hotels and resorts abroad must comply with UK health and safety standards, an expert has said.

Virgin Holidays is currently appealing a County Court judgment in favour of holidaymaker who walked into a glass patio door at a Barbados hotel. The holidaymaker, Moira Japp, was awarded £24,000 in damages for injuries sustained when the door shattered as the court found that the glass did not comply with UK safety standards.

Defendant personal injury expert, Ian Evans of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that if the Court of Appeal upheld the judgment, UK tour operators could be faced with a duty to ensure that tourist accommodation throughout the world met UK standards.

"Prior to this, tour operators were able to rely upon the 'local standards' defence: in other words, if the hotel or resort complied with local standards then this was sufficient for the tour operator to avoid liability," he said. "If the appeal is not allowed, tour operators would have to ensure that all accommodation that they sent holidaymakers to complied with UK standards."

"If they did not, then they would be exposed to injury claims with the prospect of no or a weak defence. Alternatively, tour operators would have to undertake surveys of all accommodation - which of itself would be costly - and ensure that standards reached UK levels. This would in turn require accommodation owners to undertake expensive corrective work or else risk the tour operator dropping the accommodation," he said.

These compliance costs would "undoubtedly" be passed on to holidaymakers in the form of higher holiday costs, Evans said.

Lords Justice Lewison, Richards and Tomlinson at the Court of Appeal are currently considering their judgment, which will be delivered at a later date.

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