Tour operators not liable for balcony fall

Posted: 5th June 2018

BalconyPackage tour operators are frequently held liable for accidents that befall their clients abroad. However, as a Court of Appeal ruling showed, their legal responsibilities do not extend to holidaymakers who put their own safety at obvious risk.

The case concerned a tourist who fell 20 feet from a balcony at a Tenerife hotel and suffered a fractured skull. He and members of his family had been trapped on the balcony after the sliding doors giving access to it clicked shut. After trying to attract the attention of passers-by without success, the tourist decided to climb onto the balcony of an adjoining room. He fell after placing his weight on a ledge that turned out to be a decorative cornice that was largely made of polystyrene.

He launched proceedings against the travel company through which he booked the trip under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. He claimed that both the ledge and the door’s locking mechanism were defective and posed a foreseeable hazard. His damages claim was, however, dismissed by a judge.

In rejecting his appeal against that ruling, the Court noted that local safety standards did not require the ledge to be weight-bearing. Even if the locking mechanism had been deficient, that did not pose a direct danger to the tourist or his family. There was no fire or other emergency and the immediate cause of the accident was the tourist’s decision to take a life-threatening risk.