Holidaymaker attacked by cat loses compensation battle

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A Northern Ireland holidaymaker attacked by a cat at a Tunisian hotel has lost her High Court battle for compensation.

Bronagh Kerr sued over being scratched and bitten in the grounds of her four-star accommodation in the resort of Yasmine Hammamet.

The 32-year-old sustained deep cuts to her leg during the attack in June 2010.

She was also said to have suffered from an anxiety state for six months and been left with a phobic reaction to cats.

Ms Kerr brought an action against Thomas Cook Tour Operators, seeking up to £12,500 in damages for breach of contract, breach of statutory duty and negligence.

She claimed there had been a failure to take reasonable care to keep her safe by removing “feral” cats roaming around the hotel.

But a judge ruled on Thursday that her case must be dismissed “with reluctance” because no evidence was given to establish the standards of care which apply in Tunisia.

Mr Justice Maguire also held that the attack could not have been foreseen.

Ms Kerr and her partner had booked a one-week package holiday through Thomas Cook in Belfast to stay at the Chich Khan Hotel.

The hotel was described in the brochure as part of the tour operator’s Style Collection.

But four days into the holiday a cat jumped out of bushes to launch an attack on the holidaymaker’s bare legs.

She told the court how she had previously noticed large numbers of cats apparently roaming freely in the hotel grounds.

TripAdvisor comments from other guests remarking on the animals’ presence also featured in the case.

None of the reports, however, mentioned any separate attacks.

Defending the alleged failure to safeguard Ms Kerr, lawyers for Thomas Cook argued that it depended on what reasonable standards of care applied in Tunisia.

With personal injury in the case valued at £12,500, Mr Justice Maguire indicated management was under some obligation to control large numbers of stray cats if they were roaming around the hotel.

But because nothing had been presented on the standard of care he could not conclude any breach of obligations had occurred.

The judge also identified no evidence of any propensity by cats at the hotel to attack.

“There is also no proof that the cats are properly described as feral in the sense of having aggressive or dangerous characteristics,” he said.

Although he accepted Ms Kerr’s holiday was ruined, Mr Justice Maguire ruled that the damage she sustained was not caused by any breach of contract, breach of statutory duty or negligence.

He added: “Even if it could be said that there had been a failure in general terms to control the cats, the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by an event which, on the basis of the evidence before the court, was out of the ordinary and could not have been anticipated.”