Knowing Your Target the Problem in Accident Damages Case

A tragic ending to a family holiday led to a dispute which was only resolved in the Supreme Court.

The woman and her husband had previously visited Egypt and stayed at a hotel there. Before returning to England, they had picked up a brochure in the hotel foyer which advertised safari tours.

Before leaving England on a subsequent family visit, the woman telephoned the hotel's concierge to arrange a chauffeur-driven trip to Fayoum to see the monuments. The excursion ended in tragedy when the family was involved in an accident in which the woman's husband and his daughter were killed. The woman and the daughter's two children survived, but all three were seriously injured.

In her capacity as her husband's executor, the woman sued the holding company of the hotel whose concierge had arranged the booking, claiming compensation for personal injury. She also brought a claim for damages for bereavement and loss of dependency under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 in her capacity as her late husband's widow.

The case was contested on various grounds. In particular, the hotel group argued that it had never entered into a contract with the woman in England or anywhere else. The contract was with the driver of the hire car, who operated independently of the group.

The woman argued that the group was vicariously liable for the accident as it was the owner of the hotel business which provided the services of the driver, the contract being between the woman and the hotel.

Determining who was liable was very complicated because of the convoluted ownership structure of the hotel. It was effectively a franchised operation, which used the group's branding and reservations system but was under separate ownership.

Accordingly, the Court concluded that any claim based on a contract with the holding company could not succeed.

The claims for injuries based on the driver's negligence were not matters for the English courts, but came under the jurisdiction of the Egyptian courts.

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