FRED DEL MARVA, PI, PPO
Bar Security Expert, Casino Security Expert, Hotel Security Expert,
HOTEL GUEST SAFETY
When persons or companies engage in an activity, they are under a legal duty to act as an “ordinary,
prudent, reasonable person.” This is the general duty, of care which, in the case of a hotel, imposes
on that hotel the obligation not to do or fail to do something that will cause injury to the guests,
customers, or patrons. A hotel is not an insurer of the guests’ safety (an insurer is liable for
injury regardless of cause). Responsibility is limited to the exercise of reasonable care; that is,
a hotel is liable for injuries caused by its violation of the standard duty of care (the care which a
reasonably prudent hotel would exercise under the circumstances to avoid a reasonably foreseeable harm.)
What degree of care constitutes the “reasonable care” a hotel must provide? Many authorities hold hotel and innkeepers to the exercise of a very high degree of care. Recently a court held that a person entering a hotel is entitled to expect far greater preparations to be made to secure his safety than one entering a private building. Some cases will further illustrate the extent of a hotel’s general duty of care. In one such cause, a hotel was held to have had a duty to protect a mentally disturbed guest from herself when she jumped to her death from the top of the hotel’s atrium. Among the facts supporting the court’s ruling were the following: the guest’s husband had called the hotel to warn them of her mental condition and ask about her; the hotel's employees had seen the woman acting in a dazed condition the day before her death; in prior years, several people had leaped from the upper stories of the hotel, putting the hotel on notice that its upper floors had become an attractive place for suicides. Another case in which a hotel was liable for not adhering to the required standard of care involved a toboggan run which had been designed and built for hotel guests. The hotel failed to maintain a side wall sufficient to tun the toboggan away from obstructions. A hotel guest sustained injures when her toboggan failed to negotiate a turn and went over a side wall into a steel pole.
The degree of care which a hotel must exercise for the safety, convenience or comfort of its guests may vary with the grade and perceived quality of the accommodations of the hotel offers. Additionally, a hotel can virtually set its standard of care by implementing certain customs or operating procedures. Once a standard of care has been set by the hotel, it will be held to it, regardless of whether the standard is higher than that required by the duty of “reasonable care”. Again, some cases illustrate these points. In one case, a hotel was held liable for a patron’s stolen property because the hotel had an inadequate security force on duty at the time of the theft. At one time the hotel had a larger force to countermand a small crime wave that had hit the hotel. When the number of criminal incidents decreased, so did the hotel’s security force? The plaintiff guest was robbed shortly thereafter.
In addition to a general duty of care a hotel has an undelegatable duty to provide a reasonably safe premises. The courts consider a hotel’s duty to provide safe premises for its guests so important to the public that the hotel cannot delegate it to another.
The duty to make the premises reasonably safe for guests and patrons also carries with it the obligation to warn of any dangers on or about the premises of which the hotel knows or should have known, particularly those dangers which are not readily apparent to a third party. For example, a guest sued a hotel for failing to give adequate warning of a dangerous surf. The guest checked into a Hawaiian hotel which in its brochure had the statement “the sea is safe and exhilarating for swimming.” On the day of the guest’s accident, there were four signs allegedly posted along the frontage of the beach cautioning guests to use swimming pools whenever red flags, indicating dangerous surf conditions, appeared on the beach. There were six flags positioned along the beach. The guest admitted seeing them, but stated she did not see the signs warning of the dangerous surf conditions, nor did she receive any verbal warnings from the hotel staff. The court found the surging surf represented an apparent, dangerous condition of which the hotel was aware and of which it failed to adequately warn the guest.
An experienced and qualified hospitality industry expert will be able to render an opinion regarding whether the standards set by the hotel were reasonable and adequate taking into consideration the totality of circumstances.
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Fred Del Marva, PI, PPO
21666 North 58th Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85308