13 June, 2022 Legal
In summer 2021, UK-based Irwin Mitchell law firm reached out to Muir Analytics to provide specialist litigation support for the negligence lawsuit against travel company TUI UK Ltd over the ISIS terrorist attack on the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel in Sousse, Tunisia. TUI settled with the plaintiffs in January 2022. Here’s what happened.
In June 2015, ISIS terrorist Seifeddine Rezgui, a university student armed with an AK-47 and what appeared to be homemade grenades, attacked tourists on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel in Sousse. He then attacked the Imperial Marhaba hotel itself before being shot by Tunisian security forces on the street behind the hotel. The casualty count was 39 wounded and 38 killed, most of them British citizens. It was one of the worst hotel attacks in history. Muir Analytics initially covered it here and here.
The attack caused Tunisia’s tourism sector to collapse, and the Imperial Marhaba was shut down, left to languish. Eventually, it was sold and rebranded.
As an aside, months before this attack, Muir Analytics questioned the logic of hotel builders and tourism companies investing in Tunisia following the March 2015 ISIS attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis that killed 24 and wounded 42, most of them tourists. Muir also noted that Tunisia had seen large, boisterous university rallies in support of ISIS. These same rallies also praised Adolph Hitler. It was clear that Islamist jihadists had targeted the country. Read Muir’s 2015 warning piece here.
At any rate, on 11 September 2015, the press reported that Irwin Mitchell was representing the families of the wounded and deceased from the Imperial Marhaba attack in a lawsuit against TUI, the travel company that arranged for said holidaymakers to travel to this hotel.
At the time, Clive Garner, head of Irwin Mitchell’s International Travel Litigation Group, said, as reported by Reuters, “It is clear that the security measures were not sufficient to prevent a lone gunman from accessing the hotel and its grounds, nor were they robust enough to stop him during a prolonged 30-to-40-minute rampage.” Using press sources, Muir originally reported on the lawsuit here.
In 2016, Muir Analytics briefly interfaced with Irwin Mitchell on the lawsuit regarding possible strategic support for the case.
In 2017, using press sources, Muir again reported on the lawsuit. The claimants (plaintiffs) were asking for more than $12 million USD in damages. They also alleged TUI had been in error telling its clients that Tunisia was a safe place for holidaymakers, especially right after the Bardo Museum attack. TUI denied these and other accusations.
In late January 2021, a British High Court announced the TUI case would be heard in February 2022, said the Belfast Telegraph. The same source quoted Kylie Hutchison, one of the lead solicitors (litigators) in the case, as saying, “This is a highly complex and unprecedented legal case which is brought against TUI by the families of those killed and the survivors of the attack who were left seriously injured.” Irwin Mitchell said it was representing 83 claimants.
An Irwin Mitchell press release said, “The complex trial is expected to last for seven weeks and involves evidence from more than 50 witnesses and experts. Some of the evidence is considered sensitive for security reasons and will be heard in private.”
Also at this time, Hutchinson revealed part of Irwin Mitchel’s strategy behind the case, saying to the press, “In the months and years leading up to this attack there was an escalation in terrorist activity in Tunisia which meant far more rigorous and effective security measures should have been in place at this hotel.”
Then in July 2021, in a separate case, the British Supreme Court ruled in favor of a UK rape victim who sued her travel company, Kuoni, for safety and security negligence. This attack happened at a Sri Lankan resort in 2010. Irwin Mitchel represented the victim. This groundbreaking case had an invigorating impact on the TUI lawsuit since they shared some similarities.
Not long after the Kuoni ruling, Irwin Mitchel reached out to Muir Analytics, among many others, to provide litigation support for the TUI lawsuit.
Muir’s litigation support consisted of providing:
The Irwin Mitchell team, under the leadership of solicitor Hutchison, took Muir’s information, merged it with litigation support material from scores of other sources, and, combined with Irwin Mitchell’s vast expertise in travel litigation, continued to build their claimants’ case.
Per the legal parameters of the case, Muir Analytics was not privy to these confidential legal maneuverings.
Then, suddenly, on 6 January 2022, just weeks before the court case was to begin, TUI settled with the claimants, reports the International Travel & Health Insurance Journal.
Settlement details were kept confidential, and TUI admitted no culpability in this negligence case. Additionally, neither legal team commented on the case’s particulars or the settlement details.
Sky News reports that TUI and Irwin Mitchell released a joint statement that, in part, read: “The tragic events of 26 June 2015 in Tunisia shocked and devastated us all and changed the lives of those affected forever. TUI has always expressed heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those caught up in the terrorist attack that day and continue to extend deepest sympathy.
The claimants have fought tirelessly to understand how the attack happened and to seek to ensure that lessons have been learned so that other families are not affected by similar tragedies.
TUI has worked collaboratively with the claimants and their representatives, Irwin Mitchell, to reach a settlement without admission of liability or fault and in recognition of the wholly exceptional circumstances of the case, and in the hope that it will go some way to assisting the claimants.”
Muir Analytics respects this outcome and agrees that there are indeed lessons to be learned here to prevent – or blunt – this kind of attack from happening again. Muir additionally hopes the families of the deceased and wounded received proper compensation for this attack, and that it eases their weighty bereavement.
Note: Neither Irwin Mitchel, nor TUI’s legal team, nor any other lawyer, provided information for the following non-legal analytical points.
First, while Muir Analytics is not a law firm, and, at present, it does not offer any technical law-based analyses or advice, Muir’s litigation support – a pattern analysis of hotel violence and terrorism/insurgent violence in Tunisia leading up to the Imperial Marhaba massacre – helped provide critical leverage to arrive at the aforementioned settlement.
To reiterate, however, other litigation support experts and the legal maneuvering by Irwin Mitchel were also key reasons for the outcome of this case. Muir’s information was not the single cause of this settlement.
Second, it is Muir’s perception that this settlement might be viewed by some as a victory of sorts for the claimants because:
Third, it is Muir’s perception that cases like these – lawsuits against hotels and travel companies over security negligence – are increasing globally. Protective intelligence can help hospitality companies reduce violence and avoid calamitous cases like the TUI lawsuit, or it can help lessen their impact if they do happen.
Muir Analytics runs the world’s largest, most sophisticated hotel violence database – the SecureHotel Threat Portal – with over 2,000 hotel attacks (and growing). It can provide the hospitality sector with intelligence that facilitates full-spectrum risk reduction, which helps hotels protect guests, staff, buildings, brands, and revenues. Contact Muir for a consultation: 1-833-DATA-444.
“TUI settles claims of families caught in Tunisia terror attack,” Sky News, 6 January 2022.
“TUI agrees settlement with Sousse terror attack survivors and relatives,” International Travel & Health Insurance Journal, 6 January 2022.
“Supreme Court Rules Tour Operator Kuoni Liable For Sex Attack On British Holidaymaker By Sri Lanka Hotel Worker,” Irwin Mitchell press release, 30 July 2021.
“Tunisia terror attack case expected to be heard next year,” Belfast Telegraph, 29 January 2021.
“Trial for victims of Tunisia terrorist attack with claims against TUI set to take place in early 2022,” Irwin Mitchell press release, 29 January 2021.
“Tunisia attack victims start legal action against travel firm Thomson,” Reuters, 10 September 2015.
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