Family poisoned at St John resort in the Virgin Islands – where is the line on duty of care?

Passports-on-a-MapA Delaware family were recently staying at a Resort in Cruz Bay, St. John, in the Virgin Islands and became seriously ill, believed to be due to a pesticide commonly known as methyl bromide.

The unit below the one the family stayed in was reportedly fumigated the day the family arrived for their vacation. By that evening, the whole family began to feel ill. According to the US EPA, methyl bromide is a chemical that has been banned for indoor use since 1984.  The gas is colorless and odorless and can cause convulsions, coma, and cognitive deficits.

As operators this raises numerous questions around our duty of care:


According to reports, a contract company, Terminix, applied the pesticide and although Terminix are reportedly now facing criminal conviction, the ongoing damage to the resorts reputation would certainly be significant.

As operators, agreements are in place to ensure the contractor completes the work and to protect the operator legally, but is there protection from the brand damage an incident such as this can cause?

Is there a silver bullet? Is it possible to efficiently implement internal measures to ensure that laws are being upheld?  How do you ensure that services can be cost effectively outsourced as well as being protected legally and morally from an incident such as this?

Duty of care to your guests

What are the boundaries of your duty of care? Are you required to abide by the laws of your guest’s country of residence, as well as the laws within the country you operate? Or at least must you operate diligently to protect the health, safety and welfare of your guests, whether they be international or local?

Our View

We believe that due diligence must certainly play a major role in hosting your guests.  If an hotel accepts international guests, it is the hoteliers responsibility to operate the property with a duty of care to protect the customers basic health and safety.  This responsibility should include becoming familiar with international laws and adopting, implementing and enforcing suitable operating standards.

Where do you draw the line? Join the conversation.

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