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Admitting primary liability, subject to causation

Articles | Fri 9th Mar, 2018

On 23 February 2018, in Worrall v Thomas Cook, DJ Hassall determined the meaning of an admission in a holiday illness case. The Claimant sent a Letter of Claim alleging (among other matters) that the food served to the Claimant under the holiday package was unsafe to consume and not of satisfactory quality. The Defendant replied, making an admission in the following terms:-

“Please note primary liability is admitted subject to proof of actual illness plus any of causation and quantum which may arise”.

The Particulars of Claim pleaded the admission. In the Defence, the Defendant pleaded that the Claimant still had to prove both that she was served, and that she ate, contaminated food.

The Claimant argued that the admission, properly construed, was an admission that the Defendant’s supplier exposed the Claimant to a pathogen.

The Defendant argued the admission meant only that it admitted food hygiene was not of a proper standard at the time of the Claimant’s holiday, and that, prior to the Claimant falling ill, contaminated food was served (although not necessarily to the Claimant).

The judge preferred the Claimant’s submissions. The Claimant’s claim was in contract; and serving contaminated food to the Claimant was a breach of contract, entitling the Claimant to nominal damages, whether or not the Claimant becomes ill. Given this, the rider stating that the admission was subject to causation had to mean that the admission was subject to medical causation being made out.

Andrew Spencer was counsel for the Claimant.

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