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Legal Cases in Hospitality

(Based on real cases—where the facts have been altered to protect the identity of each lawsuit).

1.Title:  When Liquor Liability Becomes Complicated.

  • Brief Facts:  A guest was served a number of vodka drinks at a local bar before taking a taxi to his nearby hotel.  Arriving at the hotel, he joined some friends in the Jacuzzi and continued drinking more vodka.  He also ingested at least one cannabis gummy cube.  To make matters even more complicated, as he stepped out of the Jacuzzi, he tripped and hit his head hard enough to pass-out for roughly 15 seconds (according to witnesses).  At this pojnt, deciding to leave the hotel, he got into his car and drove away.  He caused a two-car accident several miles away, killing himself and the other driver.  A lawsuit was brought against the local bar for over-service.  The bar defended itself saying that the additional drinks, cannabis gummy cube, and head injury complicated the situation so much that the case should be released through a Motion for Summary Judgment.


2.Title:  Foreseeability of Injury.

  • Brief Facts:  A Florida bar was known for serving guests while they sat on the edge of a concrete wall looking over the ocean.  Guests could even jump off the wall and swim (diving was prohibited by signage).  The area was served by a set of stairs so swimming guests could climb back to the wall.  A group of guests were drinking and jumping in.  One friend (described as “very drunk”) dove in and subsequently broke his neck.  He sued the bar for what he claimed was a foreseeable injury.


3.Title:  Bahamas Resort Rape and Hostage.

  • Brief Facts:  Two young women (18) on second-story.  Dead tree used to hoist perpetrator to second story.  Previous history of this type occurrence at hotel.  Glass door “appeared” to be locked but wasn’t.


4.Title:  Convention Hotel Death After Do-Not-Disturb on Door Four Days.

  • Brief Facts:  Man feels sick.  Hotel brings soup and turns up in-room heat.  Wife calls several times over several days.  Man dies and housekeeping does not check room over 4 days due to DND.


5.Title:  Vail Ski Resort Medical Convention—Slip and Fall.

  • Brief Facts:  Featured speaker arrives early to conference room on wintery morning via the back door.  Slips on ice in known hazard area.  Hotel did not identify ice on sidewalk.  Speaker was renowned doctor who suffered irreparable harm.


6.Title:  Wet Floors Require Signage.

  • Brief Facts:  On a rainy day, a male guest entered hotel lobby.  The roof was leaking and the hotel placed a white bucket under the leak.  There was a great deal of overspill on the floor around the bucket.  There was no signage indicating; “Wet Floor,” no person standing by to provide warning, and no stanchion blocked the area.  Video surveillance showed the man slip and fall on the wet tile floor.  The lawsuit claimed that a simple white bucket without any signage is insufficient warning of wet floors.


7.Title:  Where Personal Responsibility Ends and Fraud Begins.

  • Brief Facts:  A group of Western African investors (who spoke no English) used a law firm to handle their investment in a large Canadian restaurant chain.  The investors believed they were 51% owners and had numerous internal documents to back-up their claim.  Yet, when they decided to sell their stake in the restaurant chain, they soon found they owned just 18%.  They subsequently sued the attorney for fraud.  The attorney claimed the language difference had caused a misunderstanding.


8.Title:  California Card Club Schedules Management Inconsistently.

  • Brief Facts:  Poker dealers and shift managers claim they were required to bribe the schedule-maker for their scheduled stations.  Both dealers and shift managers earn tips from patrons.  Better scheduled stations earn larger incomes.


9.Title:  Big Casino Winner.

  • Brief Facts:  A casino patron won $1 million slot machine payout.  He allegedly decided to pretend he “lost” all the winnings over the coming months by buying in for large sums at blackjack tables.  Gaming winnings are taxable only to the extent they are not offset by gaming losses.  The IRS challenged his losses.


10. Title:  Atlantic City Casino Admits to Discrimination.

  • Brief Facts:  Three black slot change attendants were never scheduled to work the high-limit slot areas.  They claimed discrimination and the casino agreed.  An estimate of lost income from never being scheduled in the high limit slot area over the past twenty years for each of three employees was required as part of the settlement.


11.Title:  Elliptical Exercise Machine Injures Child.

  • Brief Facts:  Female guest had 4 children with her.  Hotel acknowledges her presence in work-out room with four children present.  Signage requires children to be supervised.  Mother exercises on elliptical machine while her young daughter plays with a doll.  The doll gets stuck under the elliptical and as the young daughter reaches under the elliptical machine for the toy, her arm becomes mangled.


12.Title:  Tucson Pool Chair Breakage.

  • Brief Facts:  A large man backs-up his outdoor pool chair and the metal leg collapses.  The patron falls heavily onto his spine and suffers injury.  Chair was purchased at local WalMart and did not meet industry standards.


13.Title:  Jacuzzi Electrocution.

  • Brief Facts:  During a high school sports trip.  Numerous adolescents were in the Jacuzzi room.  One tall young man stands on top of Jacuzzi and reaches up to unscrew lightbulb in order to improve the ambiance.  The hotel’s installation did not include an electrical ground.  The young man was severely shocked, fell off his perch, and landed on his head on the tile floor.  He suffered irreparable brain damage.


14.Title:  Taxi-Cab is Not an Ambulance.

  • Brief Facts:   At a large resort property, a middle-aged guest had just completed a full-day of tennis and meetings.  He presented himself to the front desk with a sick feeling.  He is likely in the middle of heart attack but does not know it.  The front desk instructs him to “hop into the taxi right outside.”  He dies en-route to the hospital.


15.Title:  Spa Sexual Abuse.

  • Brief Facts:  Spa owner is put on notice four separate times by four separate women that a male masseuse is performing sexually inappropriate touch during private massage sessions.  Spa owner ignores and disregards each complaint.  Once police become involved, 16 women come forward.


16.Title:  Standing in Line Proves Hazardous.

  • Brief Facts:  Two women “cut” in front of a couple standing in line for a popular casino buffet.  The couple had been waiting ten minutes and others were in line behind them.  The two women simply walked through the line and stood in front of the couple.  The wife explained they had been waiting and the back of the line was over there.  At this point one of the two women yelled that the wife should mind her own business, hit her in the mouth, and knocked her to the ground.  Another guest found two security officers.  The security officers arrived and watched the husband argue with the woman.  Moments later, as the security officers watched, the woman proceeded to hit the husband and knock-him-out.  The suit claimed security should have known the second attack was foreseeable.


17.Title:  Miami Auto Wreck.

  • Brief Facts:  Seven young guests (average age 22 years old) are asked to leave a hotel because of alleged noise complaints.  The officer who asks them to leave likely knew they were intoxicated.  He stands his ground as he watches the young adults walk to the parking garage, pile into a crowded vehicle, and drive away.  A short time and distance later, an accident results; killing one, injuring others including a year-long coma.


18.Title:  West Nile Virus.

  • Brief Facts:  Are screen doors standard for high-end resorts?  This was the question as a patron found his room filled with dozens of mosquitoes.  Within weeks he was diagnosed with West Nile Virus.


19.Title:  He’s Drunk, Let Him Sleep It Off.

  • Brief Facts:  Truck driver allegedly drank just half a beer.  He went to bed and awoke via his wake-up call at 6am.  He answered and hung-up the telephone but likely fell to the floor at this time.  He did not arrive for his taxi at 7am.  He was still on the floor that afternoon when housekeeping found him.  Management was called and the patron stated he was tired and wanted to go back to bed.  He was found again on the floor 24-hours later.  He had suffered a stroke and medically, this 24+ hours was too long for him to regain health.


20.Title:  Hotel Employees Were Illegals.

  • Brief Facts:  Woman with mental handicaps on a trip with her working mother.  Mother is away from room but checks on her adult daughter with mental-handicaps.  Two men enter the room to clean.  One later leaves and the other allegedly rapes the daughter.  When police arrive to arrest the employee, there is no record of him.  He is an illegal working for cash wages.


21.Title:  Let’s Get into the Hot Tub.

  • Brief Facts:  Hot tub filter leaves slime on steps.  Most patrons were staying away from it, considering the green slime disgusting.  One patron entered the Jacuzzi and slipped off the top stair.  The result was severe back damage.


22.Title:  Dry Fire Suppression System.

  • Brief Facts:  A hotel experienced million-dollar water damage as the result of a broken fire suppression line.  But the leak started as a small drip.  It was discovered and nothing was done to repair the leak until it eventually became a deluge.  The water poured out for over an hour and completely flooded entire hallways.  No one on staff knew how to shut-off the water main.


23.Title:  Fire at the Bed and Breakfast.

  • Brief Facts:  A brand new, country inn with substantial meeting space and numerous rooms burned to the ground.  It burned the day before it was slated to open.  Fire insurance did not know how much to pay the claim, because business interruption insurance was part of the policy.  The hotel had virtually zero reservations on the books, in spite of the fact it was scheduled to open the next day.


24.Title:  Pack Them in at the Bingo Hall.

  • Brief Facts:  Special event with limited space.  The crowd, captured on surveillance video, was beyond capacity.  A patron with walking difficulties attempted to traverse the sea of chairs, fell, and was irreparably harmed.


25.Title:  How Many Drinks is Too Many.

  • Brief Facts:  A large restaurant made sure all employees were trained through Wisconsin Responsible Server Training.  One server, however, substantially over-served a male guest.  The man subsequently drove his car into a crowded bus stop and killed two persons.  The question was; do Dram Shop laws insulate the restaurant from litigation or does management play a role in establishing policies which limit the number of drinks served.


26.Title:  Where’s My Non-Slip Bath Mat.

  • Brief Facts:  A patron with a previous knee replacement fell while taking a shower.  The hotel did not provide a non-slip shower mat.  The patron was unable to get-up from the shower floor and was forced to wait three hours until housekeeping heard her screams.  It took security 45 minutes to enter the deadbolted room.


27.Title:  How Hot is Too Hot.

  • Brief Facts:  A patron prepared to take a shower on a Sunday evening.  The hotel’s hot water usage was very low at this time.  The hotel set its water temperature high in order to compensate for busy usage on other days.  The patron set his shower on full high hot.  He bent over to feel the water and had a stroke, falling into the tub.  He was severely scalded over the several minutes it took for him to extract himself from the tub.

28.Title:  Hotel Arson.

  • Brief Facts:  An arsonist, fueled by drug addiction and his anger towards a specific patron, sets off an incendiary device which explodes and subsequently burns most of a full-service hotel.  Numerous guests are injured from the smoke and confusion that ensues.  The property owner was sued for allowing unregistered guests access to the hotel lobby during wee hours of the morning.


29.Title:  Foreseeably Dangerous Recreational Activity. 

  • Brief Facts:  A professional events company hosting a large recreational retreat, for a publishing house in Florida, offered a number of casual activities for participants to attempt.  All but one activity were verbal in nature (sing a song, tell a joke) or mildly physical (dance like Michael Jackson).  Only one activity pitted members of one team against others (tug-of-war). Teams were motivated to win the event through points and prizes to be earned.  One attendee was severely injured during the tug-of-war, resulting in a complete tear of knee ligaments.


30.Title:  Does a Hotel “Stand” Behind the Items it Provides.

  • Brief Facts:  An airport hotel discovered a medical walker left behind by a guest.  After remaining some period in the Lost and Found department, the hotel inventoried the item and subsequently provided it to a woman whose walker was misplaced by an airline.  She began to use the medical walker to navigate the large lobby.  A wheel fell off the medical walker and the woman fell, shattering her elbow.  The lawsuit claimed that if the hotel provided her the medical walker, they should have verified it was in useable condition.

31.Title:  Do Hotels Provide Medical Evaluations.

  • Brief Facts:  A room attendant knocked and entered a guestroom where the female guest was sitting on her sofa with her eyes open.  The room attendant acknowledged the guest, apologized for the disturbance, and closed the door.  The guest said nothing.  The same room attendant knocked and entered the same room 24-hours later.  This time, the guest was laying on the sofa with her eyes open.  Again, the guest said nothing.  On the third day, the room attendant entered the same room.  The guest was still laying on the sofa, but this time, the guest’s eyes were closed.  The room attendant notified security and it was determined that the guest was dead.  The lawsuit claimed the hotel was responsible for checking on the guest after the room attendant addressed her and heard no remark.

32.Title:  Hotels are Liable for Dramshop Even if They Don't Serve.

  • Brief Facts:  An inebriated hotel guest is allowed to consume store-bought alcohol in a hotel lobby until late into the night.  Hotel security documents the guest party but does not interrupt it.  At 3am, the hotel's valet staff delivers the guest's vehicle upon-request.  A vehicular homicide ensues leaving four persons dead.


33.Title:  Insufficient Parking for Hotel Guests.

  • Brief Facts:  A hotel guest is told to park in the well-lit lot behind the hotel.  The guest returns to the front desk to complain there are no spaces available.  The hotel instructs the guest to park in another area on additional land owned by the hotel.  The guest is told that this lack of sufficient parking is an on-going problem.  The guest parks in a dark dirt lot.  It is so dark, that walking back to the hotel, she falls into a large hole filled with water.  The patron breaks her spine and hip.


34.Title:  Hotel Patron Dies in Guestroom.

  • Brief Facts:  A female guest was acting strangely at check-in.  She was verbally aggressive and abusive with hotel staff.  Subsequently she placed a Do-Not-Disturb sign on her guestroom door.  The next day, housekeeping staff had the opportunity to interact with the patron four separate times; a phone call asking for towels, the delivery of the towels, a knock to see if she wanted towels (by a room attendant who was unaware of the previous delivery), and a complaint to the executive housekeeper about this particular room attendant's disturbance.  In all four instances, housekeeping noted the patron was acting irrationally.  She subsequently died in her room of a brain "aneurism."  Medical experts have stated that she would still be alive if hotel staff had called authorities or asked for medical intervention because of her irrational behavior.

35.Title:  Soap Dish Breaks Man’s Back.

  1. Brief Facts:  A Maryland FBI agent staying in a guestroom suffered a broken back when a heavy porcelain soap dish fell off the tiled shower wall onto his foot.  The heavy dish landed on his foot, surprised him, and he fell backwards, breaking his back on the side of the tub.  There had been a total of 17 such falling soap dishes at the hotel.  The other 16 had occurred before each renovated hotel room had been brought back on-line, and as such, no guests had been injured by the previous 16.  Aware the dishes were too heavy to stay glued to the tile, soap dishes in every renovated room had been replaced with lighter plastic soap dishes.  Obviously, the hotel had missed one room, resulting in the broken back of a patron.

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