The Travellers’ Compensation
With the recriminations flying after the Icelandic volcanic eruption and e-mails from lawyers doing the rounds, the Sunday Telegraph, yesterday, ran the results of a survey of 24 tourist bodies and attractions. It revealed that over £2 million had been paid out over the last five years in compensation payments and legal fees. And this could be dwarfed by the compensation being considered by some airlines (over £1 billion) for having the airspace over much of Europe closed for over 6 days. Not to mention airline passenger claims.
Let me state from the outset that I am not opposed to compensation for any dereliction caused by attractions, organisations or whatever. Where it is justly deserved ,let it be paid and we, the taxpayers, as the ultimate source will have to grin and cough up. But there are some instances where bodies have probably paid because the legal costs of defending an action might have been higher.
Take British Waterways for example. The Sunday Telegraph survey says that it paid in 53 cases for “falls” or where someone had “tripped” amounting to some £350,000 in total. Now riverbanks, canal walks aren’t flat. Roots from trees surface from time-to-time and stones can litter walkways. If payments exist for this then it is abhorrent since surely an “average ” person would not expect some flat tarmacadam pathway? If there were a path like that, conservationists would howl that we are defacing the natural landscape.
At Carlisle Castle, at 2 in the morning, a lady fell into the moat whilst trespassing. The fact that she was trespassing didn’t stop a case costing English Heritage over £150,000 which included £37,250 in legal costs. Maybe the castle didn’t have adequate fencing at the time but even then, a trespasser must bear some element of guilt. At the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, one restaurant visitor helped himself to soup from an unattended counter. Managing somehow to bath his thumb in the hot soup, he received £400 for his scalded thumb. It’s his own fault. If the soup had been cold he would have complained as well!
Some human beings have a wonderful capacity to do daft things without thinking. The rest of us shouldn’t have to be the ultimate provider of cash compensation for stupidity. And part of that stupidity seems to be the costs of law which may amount to 50% of the cost. For genuine cases, wouldn’t it be cheaper for attractions to create an ombudsman whose conclusions would be binding and if people opted out of the system, the attraction would not be liable for any other than their own legal costs?