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Paper: Diana Advisers May Sue Ritz

December 21, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ Advisers to the estate of Princess Diana are considering a multimillion dollar claim against the Ritz Hotel in Paris owned by Mohamed Al Fayed in compensation for her premature death, The Sunday Times reported. d

Quoting a royal source, the paper said the minimum claim would be 8 million pounds ($13.4 million), the amount of the inheritance tax bill on her 21 million pound ($35 million) estate.

But it said the estate could also claim a further 25 million pounds ($42 million) in interest that would have accrued on Diana’s estate during her lifetime.

The estate could sue for Diana’s premature death if French investigators rule that chauffeur Henri Paul, employed by the Ritz, was responsible for the princess’s death.

Tests revealed that Paul was three times over the French drink-drive limit when the Mercedes limousine he was driving crashed in a Paris tunnel on Aug. 31. Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, and Paul also died in the crash.

``If a hotel provides a car and a driver, then anyone riding in it has every reasonable right to expect the car and driver are suitable to perform the task assigned,″ the paper quoted a royal source as saying. ``The Ritz Hotel is a candidate for culpability.″

But Diana’s former head of staff Michael Gibbins said Saturday night: ``No consideration has been given to the question of any civilian action, nor would that consideration be given until the criminal investigation has been completed.″

``The hypothesis that a Ritz Hotel employee was responsible is no more than a hypothesis at the moment,″ Gibbins said.

He confirmed that the estate was registered as an ``interested party″ in the ongoing criminal investigation in Paris.

``The situation is that the executors for the estate have registered the estate as a party interested in the criminal investigation in France. Under French law that has to be done in order to allow the estate to gain access to the papers and that is what has been done,″ he said.