The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a Hampshire father involved in a dispute with tour operator TUI.

Peter Griffiths, 61, from Fleet, became unwell with severe diarrhoea, stomach pains, fever and lethargy, severe dehydration and dangerously high blood pressure a few days into his stay at the five-star Aqua Fantasy Hotel and Spa in Turkey in August 2014, resulting in the need for hospitalisation. 

While on the holiday Peter suffered so badly from his illness that he sought treatment from a doctor who found his blood pressure was elevated and he had become dehydrated.

He was referred to the hospital where he was diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis and remained for three days before being discharged in time to fly home.

But, on his return, he was still ill and has had to see his GP several times with symptoms that have continued to the present day. He was on holiday with his wife and then 12-year-old son.

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Following the trip, IT consultant Peter instructed specialist international serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how he fell ill.

Many years later he is still suffering from the after-effects of his illness, and according to experts is likely to have permanent symptoms.

Basingstoke Gazette: Peter Griffiths became unwell a few days into his stay at the five-star Aqua Fantasy Hotel and Spa in Turkey in August 2014Peter Griffiths became unwell a few days into his stay at the five-star Aqua Fantasy Hotel and Spa in Turkey in August 2014 (Image: Irwin Mitchell)

Peter alleged that his illness was caused as a result of eating at the all-inclusive hotel but tour operator TUI denied liability.

The Supreme Court hearing before a panel of five justices in June centred on an expert microbiologist report which was presented in support of Peter’s case which stated that the hotel’s health and hygiene standards caused his illness.

The report was originally rejected by the County Court in 2019 despite defendant TUI electing not to challenge the expert at trial or present any contrary expert evidence despite being given the opportunity to do so.

This ruling was overturned by the High Court which agreed that the report should stand as the defendant did not present its own expert evidence or seek to question Peter’s expert at trial. A further appeal by TUI to the Court of Appeal ruled against Peter, leading to this latest hearing in the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, November 29, the Supreme Court judgment ruled in Peter’s favour saying that he “did not have a fair trial” because TUI failed to challenge his expert evidence on cross-examination and only indicated which parts what be disputed on the eve of the trial.

The judgment went on to say that the expert report relied upon by Peter was sufficient and that on that evidence, he had established his case that the cause of his illness was the hotel’s health and hygiene standards.

Jatinder Paul, a partner and specialist international serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Peter, said: “Many British families look forward to going on holiday, which is hoped to be a relaxing and unforgettable break in the sun, but Peter’s family holiday turned out to be anything but enjoyable.

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“It’s been tough for Peter since 2014, dealing with the ongoing effects of his illness while also dealing with a David v Goliath legal battle against a tour operator with very deep pockets.

“We presented expert evidence in the original trial with regard to the cause of Peter’s illness which was not challenged either by cross-examination or via an alternative expert report from the defendant.

“It was difficult to see how Peter could lose. Following years of litigation, and numerous legal challenges, we’re delighted that the Supreme Court has now ruled that Peter did not receive a fair trial and decided in his favour, as well as clarifying that the expert evidence presented was sufficient to establish that he, on the balance of probabilities, contracted his illness at the hotel due to a breakdown in health and hygiene standards.

“Whilst our objective has always been to secure justice for Peter, and the compensation that he deserves, we are pleased that this landmark judgment has also provided guidance to the Courts on how to grapple with unchallenged expert evidence, and to ensure fairness for all parties at trial.”

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Commenting on his Supreme Court victory, Peter said: “I am delighted, but also very relieved, that the Supreme Court has ruled in my favour. Following so many years of litigation, my case has taken a toll on my family and me, but I now feel vindicated that justice has been served by the highest court in the land, allowing us to move on with our lives.

“TUI has not made things easy for us, cynically, they have put obstacles in front of us every step of the way and tried to wear me down, which makes this judgment even more special. Overturning the Court of Appeal judgment has restored and enhanced my confidence in the British judicial system.

“I hope TUI has learnt lessons from my case, taking responsibility for the actions and inactions of their staff and business partners and I hope that no other holidaymakers are put through what I have been put through over the last decade.

“I would like to put on record my sincere appreciation to my legal team at Irwin Mitchell and my barristers Rob, Stephen and Tom for representing me, and for never letting me feel that justice would go undelivered.

“Finally, I would also like to place on record my thanks to Lord Justice Bean whose strong dissent to the majority ruling in the Court of Appeal, in my view, ultimately led to permission being given for an appeal to the Supreme Court.”