Karl and Laura Hughes from Nottingham, UK, brought a claim against Jet2Holidays for gastric illness following a holiday to Lanzarote in 2016.
The couple alleged that they had contracted food poisoning as a result of eating contaminated food but later withdrew the claims prior to formal proceedings being issued.
Jet2holidays continues to lead the way in the fight against fake sickness claims
Jet2Holidays uncovered evidence via Twitter and Facebook, along with GoPro footage on YouTube showing Hughes enjoying a snorkeling trip despite claiming to be ill, that suggested that the claims were false.
The tour operator issued contempt proceedings against the couple. This was originally struck out by the High Court, with the judge stating that the High Court had no jurisdiction to deal with the committal proceedings.
However, Jet2Holidays appealed the decision and the Court of Appeal held unanimously that the High Court did have jurisdiction to commit for contempt of Court, as statements had been served in the pre-action protocol phase (witness statements verified by a statement of truth detailing the extent of their illness).
“If those witness statements were false, as appears strongly to be the case, they interfered with the administration of justice,” stated an excerpt from The Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, Lord Justice Hamblin, and Lord Justice Flaux.
Jet2Holidays was awarded the costs of its appeal, and its original contempt proceedings against the Hughes can now progress.
“Jet2holidays continues to lead the way in the fight against fake sickness claims, and this landmark decision shows that the courts take this issue very seriously,” said Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays. “The decision by the Court of Appeal to allow us to progress with contempt proceedings against Karl and Laura Hughes, despite no legal proceedings being issued, has wide-reaching implications not only for tour operators dealing with false sickness claims, but the insurance industry in general.
“The ruling send should send a warning to others. If documents are found to contain false information, contempt of court proceedings can and will be brought, even when the claimants have decided not to commit to legal proceedings.”
Ronan McCann, Managing Partner at Horwich Farrelly, the law firm representing Jet2holidays, said: “If a fraudster is willing to submit such claims, even if they do not litigate, they are now exposed to a prison sentence. The days of submitting risk-free fraudulent claims are well and truly over."