In the Hot Seat Travel lawyer Rodney Gould By Michelle Baran / February 17, 2016 Share 1 -- Rodney Gould In light of the ongoing Zika virus crisis, Travel Weekly's Michelle Baran spoke with travel lawyer Rodney Gould of Framingham, Mass.-based Rubin Hay and Gould about what agents should know in terms of liability and how to advise their clients who are heading to destinations with known Zika virus transmission.Q: How should travel agents advise clients heading to destinations where the Zika virus is known to be a problem?A: I think the travel agent or the tour operator should put on their website and advise the clients where detailed information about the Zika virus is available at and then list the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization handle or the State Department websites. And then after that, I'd say, "We suggest you read these websites." I would not go one lick further than that. And the reason is this: It changes every day. No travel agent is really going to be able to stay as on top of it as is the government that's monitoring it. What I'm really worried about is that somebody is going to say something today that turns out to be totally wrong in another week, and unless they continue to send out updates, they're going to be vulnerable.Q: What kind of liabilities should agents be aware of in situations such as Zika?A: Travel agents have an obligation to communicate material information about a trip which they as professionals have access to and should know about but the ordinary traveling person might not. Is it so obvious, is it so much on the newspaper, is it so much on the nightly news, so that anybody traveling anywhere would know about it? That would be a pretty good defense, because a travel agent doesn't have to say things that are obvious. Would I recommend that the travel agent remain mute and not say anything [about Zika though]? No, I would not. Normally I like to do things so that a travel agent doesn't end up in court with a "maybe I'll win" defense after two years of litigation. What the travel agent really wants in order to not to have to worry about litigation is a bright, clear affirmative statement: Here are the websites that talk about it.Q: Last week, the Mexican government issued a statement that Mexico is safe for travel. Does that change the way in which travel agents should frame their advice for clients heading to Mexico?A: I give more weight to governmental warnings than I do to Mexican tourist board statements. Although it wouldn't be inappropriate to [clients about] the Mexican government website talking about the Zika virus.Q: So the agent should really just put this decision in the client's hands?A: Give the client the information to make a decision. Q: But what about when a client really wants the travel agent's personal advice on the matter?A: The travel agent can say, "It is my opinion that," or "My opinion is ..." It absolutely has to be colored with "My opinion." Don't say anything is an absolute fact when it comes to an epidemic, where it's coming from, what it's doing, where it's spreading to, what the risks are. A travel agent can be boxed into a position, especially with a good client, as to "Well, what should I do?" And about the only safe course is, one, refer them to the websites, and, two, say "It is my opinion," predicated on what is really the travel agent's opinion.