On 23rd November 2017, Andrew Evans, instructed by Clare Comiskey of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, represented the family of Norma Francis in an inquest at Stafford Coroner’s Court.
In April 2016, Mrs Francis, aged 78, had travelled to the Loch Achray Hotel in Callendar, Scotland on a coach holiday organised by Lochs and Glens with her husband and friends. A norovirus outbreak occurred and Mrs Francis was one of 21 affected. The Hotel Manager arranged private taxi transfers in accordance with their standard procedures, back to Stafford for Mr and Mrs Francis and other ill guests. At the end of the six and a half hour journey, Mrs Francis could not be roused and was taken to Stafford Hospital where she later died. The medical cause of death was dehydration as a complication of norovirus gastro-enteritis.
Recording a narrative verdict, the Coroner, Mr Haigh, found that her death was caused by the infection and worsened by the long journey home. The decision to travel was both that of the hotel and Mr and Mrs Francis but there was an “element of pressure” from the hotel. The journey proceeded absent of any medical assessment, the idea of which had probably only been mentioned in passing.
The facts of Mrs Francis’ tragic death raises interesting questions about the scope and extent of a package holiday and hotelier’s duty of care in the event of an outbreak of communicable illness, particularly towards older and more vulnerable travellers.
Written by Alan Durham