Who? Rhys Griffiths, partner, Fox Williams, London.
Why is he in the news? Secured a landmark victory for online travel agent On the Beach in a £2m claim against Ryanair for the costs of refunds to travellers for package holidays where the airline cancelled or made major changes to flights.
Thoughts on the case: ‘On the face of it, the case was simple. On the Beach wanted a refund of the amounts paid to Ryanair for flights it did not operate. However, what is significant about this case is that On the Beach did not have a direct contractual claim against Ryanair because it booked the flights as the customer’s agent. Accordingly, On the Beach founded its claim on regulation 29 of the (EU-derived) Package Travel Regulations and the common law of unjust enrichment. There was a dispute as to whether regulation 29 created a freestanding legal right for On the Beach to claim a refund, or whether it merely preserved any rights which it might otherwise have. The court ruled that regulation 29 does create a freestanding legal right. This is the first decision on the interpretation of regulation 29 in the UK or in an EU member state. It therefore sets an important precedent which is likely to be relied upon by package holiday companies in the future to seek redress from third parties which cause them loss.’
Dealing with the media: ‘There was a lot of press interest in the result. The travel press were quick to react and published news of the outcome within hours of it having been handed down. They have been following the case closely because of its wider significance to the industry. The national press were also interested in the outcome and reported on the result. This all generated a lot of inbound enquiries, which was expected and which my client was able to handle through its press team.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘The truth is that it was those US courtroom dramas from the 1980s that first piqued my interest in the law. Fundamentally, I like how the law can be relied upon to secure a fair outcome no matter who you are or the identity of your opponent.’
Career high: ‘There is no better feeling than winning in court (and vice versa!). This zero-sum game appeals to my competitive instincts.’
Career low: ‘As a trainee solicitor conducting a detailed assessment of costs, I was told by a district judge in front of my client that she would not assess my indemnity costs order because the circuit judge should never have granted it in the first place as my firm should not have brought the case. Needless to say, the decision was overturned on appeal without any challenge from my opponent.’