Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer

Injured on vacation: is your hotel responsible?

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Every year, millions of people from around the world visit California for vacation, business or to visit relatives. Once here, visitors need a place to stay, so they spend millions of dollars on hotel rooms and similar accommodations.

No matter how much a guest spends on a hotel room here in the Bay Area, the hotel's owners have a legal duty to keep the guest reasonably safe. Rooms and common areas must be maintained and kept free of dangerous defects and conditions. Floors, parking lots and sidewalks must be kept dry and clear of debris to minimize the risk of a slip-and-fall accident. Elevators must be regularly inspected and maintained. Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers must be in working order.

Liability for assault

In addition, if you are injured because of a reasonably foreseeable crime on the hotel property, the ownership may be liable for your medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages. This is a relatively difficult case to make in court, because a hotel can only be held liable for crimes committed on its premises that:

  • It reasonably should have anticipated happening, and
  • Could have been prevented, such as with locked doors and other security measures.

Still, depending on the facts and circumstances of your individual situation, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation.

Gang breaks hotel guest's arm

In a ruling from the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and reported by Business Insurance, a trial court's dismissal of a man's lawsuit against Omni Hotels Management Corp. in which he was beaten by a group of men in the lobby of an Omni hotel in 2014, suffering a broken arm, was overturned.

The attackers were staying at the hotel, but were thrown out for making too much noise. They later returned to the hotel driveway with a case of beer, where they were seen by hotel employees to chase a passerby and shout racial slurs.

The plaintiff lived next door to the Omni and had access to some of the hotel's facilities, witnessed the racist incident and went inside the hotel to complain to management. The men followed him inside and attacked him, punching and kicking him. Two of the men restrained him while a third threw a table at him.

'Far from onerous'

In its decision, the appellate court judges said the plaintiff deserved his day in court. "It is far from onerous to expect a hotel to prevent a group of recent evictees, who had demonstrated a propensity for unruly behavior and violence ... from assaulting someone in the hotel's lobby," the judges wrote.

Though this case did not take place in California, it is a good example of what can happen if your hotel does not take reasonable steps to protect you during your stay. If you were seriously hurt at a hotel, resort or similar establishment, you should know your legal options. Contact Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer at 510-832-5411. 

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