Hotels have guests come and go all the time. So hotels cannot necessarily be responsible for the actions of all guests and visitors. At the same time, if a hotel fails to protect guests and not take reasonable steps to protect patrons from undue risk of violence, the hotel may be held responsible for resulting losses guests experience from crimes or violence due to negligent security. Hotels and other public places have an obligation to ensure the safety of visitors. The failure to fulfill those duties because of inadequate security can result in legal liability, just as a hotel can be liable when its negligence plays a role in causing other types of injuries or losses.
What is the Extent of a Hotel's Responsibility to Prevent Hotel Accidents and Acts of Violence?
Determining the extent of a hotel's responsibility to keep patrons safe is very complicated. Premises liability laws outline the basic obligation hotels owe to guests, who are considered invitees and who are owed the highest duty of care. Hotels generally have an obligation to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of guests and warn them of risks that cannot be corrected. Having adequate security is a part of ensuring the safety of guests. But there's much debate over how much security is enough security.
Fox News is reporting a case that could impact how negligent security claims are handled when hotels are sued in the future. The case "could impact the entire hospitality industry because it brings to the forefront what culpability hotels and hotel employees have in protecting guests, and where liability lies if a guest is assaulted."
The case arises out of the alleged rape of an 83-year-old hotel guest. The guest had several glasses of wine at the hotel bar and was speaking to a man at the hotel bar who was not a guest at the hotel. The man offered to walk the elderly hotel guest back to her room. The woman did not have her hotel key with her, so the two went together to the front desk and the guest asked the clerk to make another key. Although the man wasn't a guest there, the clerk made the key to the woman's room and gave it to the man.
Approximately 15 minutes later, the bartender approached the clerk, expressed concern the man could pose a danger to the woman, and asked the clerk to check on her. The clerk found the man and the elderly woman walking around, not on the floor where the woman's room was located. The clerk said the elderly woman seemed confused. The man helped the woman to her room as the clerk watched. The clerk also saw the man push the woman into the room, slide in to the room himself, and slam the door- which he then deadbolted. The clerk listened for several seconds but upon hearing no loud noises, went downstairs to her post.
The elderly woman claims she was subsequently raped. She is now suing the hotel for negligent security because of a lack of cameras in common areas, for handing her key to the man who allegedly raped her and for not training hotel staff on the safety of guests. The case could create an important precedent establishing more clearly the extent of a hotel's security responsibility to guests.