A 33-year-old British man paralysed during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks today won his claim to sue the Tata Group, the owners of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, in a British court.
The Indian Hotels Company Limited, a Tata Group firm, had argued that Will Pike's negligence claim should be heard in India but a High Court judge here accepted that taking his case through the Indian courts could run into years of delay.
"In summary, my estimation is that the time this case would take to reach the probable end stage in India is some 20 years... I am persuaded that it is clearly the case that England is the appropriate forum for the trial of this action," Justice Stewart said in his ruling at the Royal Courts of Justice.
The Indian Hotels Company, however, have been given the right to appeal against the ruling and the case will now go to the Court of Appeal for a final decision.
"The appeal process is just a small delay. I'm very relieved about the judgement. It feels like a step in the right direction," said Pike, a London-based freelance filmmaker.
"For one thing, it means that justice will be allowed to take its course – if the trial were to take place in India, it simply wouldn't have happened. So now, regardless of the outcome, at least I'll know whether the hotel could have done more to ensure my safety, as well as everybody else's in the building," he added.
Pike was seriously injured when he jumped out of a window of the hotel after it was stormed by some of the 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who carried out the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. The attacks killed 166 people and left hundreds injured.
Leigh Day, the law firm behind his civil claim for damages against the Indian Hotels Company, alleged that the owners of the hotel did little to provide security for residents despite several warnings that an attack on the hotel was imminent.
The firm believes today's verdict, which follows a three-day hearing between December 2 and 4, will have dramatic implications for others injured abroad.
"Today's judgement most definitely means there is a case to answer. As much as they dislike the prospect of having to do so, the Indian Hotels Company will now have to defend this case in a court of law. The main issue will be whether or not their security and safety systems were adequate to protect guests and staff," said Russell Levy, a partner at Leigh Day.