Compensation claims by North East cruise ship passengers who fell ill thrown out by judge

The Thomson Spirit cruise ship.
The Thomson Spirit cruise ship.

A group of holidaymakers who sued over a luxury cruise blighted by outbreaks of sickness and diarrhoea had their compensation hopes dashed by a judge today.

Of the 43, 28 who sailed on the Thomson Spirit cruise ship in May 2009 sued over stomach bugs they suffered while on board.

They clearly took the importance of safety measures very seriously.

Judge David Mitchell

And another 15 sought damages for their “disappointment” at what they claimed was a sub-standard holiday.

The passengers put forward a range of complaints, some more serious than others - one of them said the ale he was served “did not look or taste like Boddingtons”.

Judge David Mitchell today described seven-figure legal bills run up during the marathon case as “enormous” and “mega-bucks”.

And he exonerated travel giant, TUI UK Ltd, saying it had done its utmost to prevent and contain the outbreak of norovirus.

The judge, sitting in Central London County Court, said many of the affected passengers believed that food poisoning had caused their stomach upsets.

But comprehensive medical evidence told against food poisoning as a source of the bug.

The judge also dismissed claims that the outbreak was a hangover from a previous cruise.

The crew had taken all reasonable steps to clean and sterilise the vessel after its earlier voyage, he said.

And once the bug began striking those on board, the crew and medical staff did all they could to limit the damage.

“They clearly took the importance of safety measures very seriously,” he said.

After the judge’s ruling, TUI’s lawyers revealed that their costs alone amounted to about £600,000. The passengers’ costs are likely to be more than that.

The eight “lead” claimants who spear-headed the case included Lesley Jackson, 44, from Durham.

She went on the cruise with a family group of five and suffered several days of symptoms.

She complained about the quality of the food and about allegedly poor hygiene practices.

She claimed that food was left out for long periods, was often lukewarm, and that sometimes hot food was mixed in with cold.

During the cruise Mrs Jackson had penned a detailed letter to the captain setting out her grievances, the court heard.

While not accepting all of her evidence, Judge Mitchell said she had clearly suffered a “very unpleasant stomach upset while on board”.

James Littlewood, 68, from Durham, was hit by the bug on May 12, suffering a range of symptoms including “severe stomach pains”.

Describing Mr Littlewood as a “straightforward” witness, the judge said he had made a good recovery.

“What really upset him” was the fact that he was confined to his cabin when his wife in turn succumbed to illness.

What meant he had to eat “bland” cabin food and missed out on shore trips, said the judge, who accepted that, for the Littlewoods, the cruise was an “unmitigated disaster”.

Ronald Rigg, 67, from Hartlepool, got through the voyage without falling ill, but was “not impressed” by the way his wife’s sickness was dealt with by the ship’s crew, said the judge.

He sued for “loss of enjoyment of his holiday”.

John Wile, 68, from South Shields, had booked the cruise with his wife to celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary, but was laid low by illness nine days into the voyage.

Mr Wile - also accepted as a reliable witness by the judge - complained about the blandness of the food and of being confined to his cabin with his wife for three days.

“It took 10 days before he was fully recovered,” the court heard.