Holidaymakers who are injured abroad can face formidable difficulties in obtaining compensation. However, the case of a little girl who almost drowned in a Spanish swimming pool showed that English personal injury lawyers have all the knowledge and skills required to rise to the challenge.
The girl, then aged eight, was holidaying with her parents at a Spanish resort when she was found at the bottom of a hotel pool. Her life was saved by another guest, who happened to be a doctor. She suffered catastrophic brain damage and will need round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.
On the girl's behalf, a personal injury claim was launched in this country. Amongst those sued was a Spanish insurer that provided cover to the employer of a lifeguard whose job it was to supervise use of the pool. After the insurer failed to acknowledge receipt of the claim within the time permitted by court rules, a default judgment was obtained against it.
The insurer abandoned an initial challenge to the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear the girl's claim. However, it applied to set the default judgment aside on the basis that justice demanded that it be permitted to put forward a defence to the girl's claim, which was valued at many millions of pounds.
In rejecting that application, however, the High Court noted that there appeared to be obvious grounds for criticising the conduct of the lifeguard on whose watch the accident occurred. The insurer's defence to the claim lacked any degree of conviction. The Court's decision opened the way for an enforcement of the default judgment.