Luckily, none of our customers have ever taken us to court, but I am very conscious of the fact that one day this could happen. What should my staff and I do if this ever were to happen? Anon
My congratulations on never having had to deal with litigation! However, you are right to prepare. It is always a possibility as unfortunately legal action is fairly common in the travel industry, particularly against tour operators due to their responsibilities under the Package Travel Regulations.
First things first, make sure that whoever deals with your post can recognise court documents and it is very important that they keep the envelope in which they came, as you may need to prove the date that the forms were sent. Once the forms have arrived, they should be passed immediately to your legal department if you have one, or if you do not, a designated member of staff.
You should be certain that you fully understand “the deemed date of service”, because you must respond with an acknowledgement, or your defence, within 14 days of the forms being served. This is why the postage date on the envelope could prove useful at some stage as the “deemed date service” is two days after the forms were posted. If you file an acknowledgment, you then have another 14 days to file your defence.
Depending on your insurance policy, you may be required to notify your insurers – they may want to be involved before you respond.
You may at this point decide that it would be appropriate to make an offer to your customer to settle the claim. Sometimes companies will decide to do this simply to avoid the costs that come from legal action, which can be substantial.
Even if you do make an offer, the client may not accept it or you also may feel that you have a strong case and want to defend yourself in court against the claim. Check the claim forms carefully and make sure that you answer every point that is being raised, however trivial they may seem to you. Your defence will need to be evidence-based. Expert reports, witness statements and records in destination are all very helpful in mounting a successful defence.
Never miss any deadlines set by the court, as this could result in you losing and having to pay the full amount of the claim even if you have
a strong case.
Lastly, we in the law do like our obscure language and terminology, so the ABTA legal team have put together a “Litigation Jargon Buster”, which should help demystify the process. We’re also happy to deal with any queries you may have, though we won’t be able to conduct your defence for you. Susan Deer Senior solicitor, ABTA