|WINDSOR, Ont. -- Darryl Burrows hasn't forgotten some of the gruesome details of his encounter with a dreaded gut virus while vacationing in the Dominican Republic five years ago.
"People were literally soiling themselves on the planes," recalls the 58-year-old Windsor resident.
"There were planeloads of people coming back with this stuff. They couldn't get to the washroom fast enough. I heard that from the stewardesses. It was bad. It was really bad."
Toronto-based law firm Rochon Genova recently announced that a $2.25 million settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit against the company MyTravel Canada Holidays Inc.
The lawsuit relates to the outbreak of the norovirus -- a highly-contagious cause of gastrointestinal illness -- at the sun-drenched Riu resorts of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, in late 2004 and early 2005.
According to the law firm, MyTravel arranged vacation packages to the resorts while the outbreak was occurring.
Rochon Genova is inviting eligible members of the public to send a claim form and request their share of the settlement. To qualify, one must be a Canadian citizen (outside of Quebec) who booked a package through MyTravel to stay at a Riu resort in the Dominican Republic during the period of Dec. 20, 2004, to March 31, 2005.
The resorts in question include Riu Bachata, Riu Mambo and Riu Merengue -- each part of a lush complex of resorts in Puerto Plata.
"Eligible class members who suffered physical symptoms consistent with norovirus will receive payments of up to $2,500," the law firm said in an announcement.'
"Additionally, travellers who provided care to a class member who suffered physical symptoms consistent with norovirus are eligible to receive $250."
Al Valente, CEO of Windsor's Valente Travel, said there are Windsor residents who may be eligible for the compensation -- Riu Resorts is a large company, and the Dominican Republic was and remains a popular destination among Windsorites.
"We do a lot of Riu," Valente said.
"I think that was an isolated case. There are issues that happen at pretty much every hotel chain. This just happens to be one with a class-action lawsuit."
Although Burrows and his family stayed at a Riu resort in Puerto Plata during the outbreak -- and most of them contracted the norovirus -- he said they're not eligible: They booked their trip through the U.S.-based company Apple Vacations.
"We were actually given compensation at the time," Burrows said. "Riu Resorts gave us a free week down there. We just had to pay for our airfare."
Burrows said he and his family took advantage of the freebie about a year after the norovirus incident. And this time, they chose a different location in the Dominican Republic: They went to a Riu resort in Punta Cana.
Nonetheless, Burrows said he's glad that there's been a settlement and some vacationers will be getting some payback.
He believes the resorts were aware of the issue before travellers arrived.
"My brother-in-law and I both talked to the assistant manager ... and she admitted, 'Yes, we know we've got this problem,'" Burrows recalled. "I said, 'Well, you should at least tell people before they get on the plane.'"
Somehow, Burrows avoided falling ill himself. But he watched his wife and his two daughters deal with vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and other symptoms associated with the infection.
Dominican Watchdog Note:
This settlement took 5 years and was announced in December 2010.
Other cases incl. 500 UK tourists receiving compensation from Salmonella in Dominican Republic