Thomas Cook claims victory in battle against fake holiday sickness claims

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Thomas Cook has declared a first victory in a campaign against fake holiday sickness claims.

The travel agent said it successfully defended itself in court after a family attempted to claim a payout worth up to £10,000 for food poisoning on an all-inclusive break in the Canary Islands.

A judge at Liverpool County Court dismissed the case on Monday after concluding they were not sick, according to the firm.

Travel trade organisation Abta launched a campaign last month to stop a huge spike in claims.

In the past year tens of thousands of UK holidaymakers have made claims - worth around £3,000 to £5,000 each - despite reported sickness levels in resorts remaining stable.

Speaking after the hearing in Liverpool, Thomas Cook managing director Chris Mottershead said it is the first of a number of cases the company will challenge in court.

He said: "We're pleased that the judge found in our favour. It's not comfortable for us to be in court questioning our customers' credibility, but the significant increase in unreported illness claims being received by the travel industry threatens holidays for all UK customers.

"This case follows an increasingly common pattern for these claims, with a previously unreported illness being raised years after the holiday with no medical or other evidence to support the illness having occurred.

"In these cases, we will not accept liability and we will take further action where we believe it is necessary to protect all of our customers."

Thomas Cook said Julie Lavelle, 33, her partner Michael McIntyre, 34, and their two young children issued a claim for damages stating that they suffered gastroenteritis on the third day of a two-week holiday as a result of poor food hygiene at their hotel on Gran Canaria.

The proceedings began in May last year, almost three years after the trip began in July 2013.

The family, from Shepston Avenue, Liverpool, argued that their symptoms continued until after their return to the UK.

They did not mention their condition to hotel staff or tour representatives in the resort, according to Thomas Cook.

On the return flight Mr McIntyre completed a holiday feedback questionnaire and left the section on illness unanswered but recorded that the service supplied was good or excellent in relation to the majority of questions, the firm said.

It reported that Mr McIntyre told the court he had drunk six pints of lager and put a favourable gloss on the trip in a bid to be more likely to benefit from a prize draw incentive for handing in the form.

No-one from the family's law firm, Bridger & Co of Carmarthenshire, was immediately available for comment.

Abta's Stop Sickness Scams campaign claims legislation designed to halt the surge in fraudulent whiplash claims - a cap on the legal fees that can be charged by solicitors pursuing personal injury cases - has fuelled the rise in travel sickness reports as it does not apply to incidents overseas.

It warns that holidaymakers pursuing fake or exaggerated claims risk ending up in prison either in the UK or abroad.