If you ever decide to start running your own hotel, the law will impose different duties and liabilities on you regarding how to run your business. The duties and obligations of both innkeepers and their guests are legal rather than contractual. When you check into a hotel, there is an unspoken contract between the owner and guest; one of these is that the hotel owner has a duty to protect the guest from undue injury.
Under What Circumstances Can a Hotel Be Held Liable?
According to US Legal, “the proprietor’s duty of reasonable care for the safety of its guests and to protect them from harm due to reasonably foreseeable risks of injury is a continual legal duty, the breach of which gives rise to a cause of action for negligence.” The hotel isn’t the insurer of the guests’ safety, and is only held liable if there is a defect or hidden danger that you and the hotel are unable to foresee. If you slip and fall in your hotel bathroom shower due to lack of proper tub safety items, you could hire a lawyer and sue the hotel for damages. The hotel has the responsibility to keep you safe, and if proper precautionary measures were not taken, then the hotel could be held liable. Of course this claim would only be successful if there was sufficient evidence of a defect or a previously unknown peril. The hotel should be subject to periodic inspection in order to make sure the hotel is safe for guests. Understanding these basic principles and liabilities of hotels can help you immensely in the event of a slip and fall injury. A hotel is generally held liable for any injury or loss of property that a guest suffers while on hotel property.
When is a Hotel Liable to its Guests?
Hotels can be held liable when hotel guests who are on their property are injured, or have their personal property stolen. There is a common law “innkeeper’s duty” which states that “innkeepers (hotel owners)” are responsible for injuries to and theft from their guests. Another name for this type of liability is “premises liability”, which states that owners of land and buildings can be held liable for injuries to or theft from their guests. Injuries to guests may be caused by unsafe conditions on the property. Theft may be perpetrated by other hotel guests or by employees of the hotel. Hotels can also be held liable for actions of their employees. When a hotel guest brings a claim against a hotel, it is usually for negligence, which means the hotel failed to do something they were responsible for in ensuring the safety of the guest and their belongings. It is unlikely that a guest would bring a claim against a hotel for an intentional action, as hotels and their employees are unlikely to intentionally harm their guests. Therefore, the claim is usually for negligence, which must be proven in a court of law.
How Do I Prove that a Hotel was Negligent?
When a hotel guest experiences an injury or has their personal property stolen while on hotel property, they may bring a claim of negligence against the hotel. In order to prove that negligence occurred, the following elements must be proven in court:
• The guest was a paying customer of the hotel at the time, and was considered an “invitee”;
• Being an invitee, the hotel owed to the guest a duty of reasonable care, based on the standards of reasonable hotels caring for their guests;
• The duty was breached because of the hotel’s negligence, or failure to complete some action, which resulted in the guest’s claim; and
• In breaching the duty of care, the hotel directly caused the injury to or theft from the guest.
What are the Duties Owed by a Hotel?
As mentioned above, the duty a hotel owes to its guests is to meet the industry standards of care to guests. The hotel must take care of certain things on the hotel property, and among its employees and other guests, to make sure all guests have the duty of care met. Invitees of property owners are always owed this duty, and are owed protection. What follows is a list of common duties hotels is responsible for to insure the safety of their guests. Hotels must:
• Keep the hotel and hotel grounds in safe condition for guests;
• Stay aware of any unsafe conditions, make repairs swiftly, and inform guests of any possibly unsafe conditions until repairs are made;
• Make sure there is security, as needed;
• Hire enough staff and train and oversee them properly;
• Take care of any health and sanitation issues, to include infect infestations such as bed bugs; and
• Make sure all locks on guest room doors function properly.
There are myriad ways a hotel can be responsible for injuries to or theft from its guests. If negligence by the hotel can be proven, according to the elements listed above, then a guest can receive monetary damages for their suffering. Here are some of the most common claims of negligence guests make against hotels:
• Personal injury – if a guest is injured during the course of their stay on hotel property, they may bring a claim against the hotel;
• A guest who has items stolen from their room may make a claim;
• A guest may sue a hotel because another hotel guest committed a crime against them;
• Because of infect infestations (bed bugs);
• Because of stairs or elevators in need of repair; and
• For actions of hotel employees
Can a Hotel be Liable for the Actions of its Employees?
Yes, if an employee causes injury to a guest, or steals items from a guest, the hotel may be held liable. This does not require that the hotel have had any knowledge which led to the incident. In a case like this, the guest would still just need to prove that the hotel is guilty of negligence. Under the theory of vicarious liability, the hotel is responsible for its employees’ actions, as long as the employee completed the action within the “scope of their employment,” meaning in the course of their job duties.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Hotel Liability Problem?
If you have been injured or have had items stolen during a hotel stay, you may have a claim against the hotel. You might want to contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and the possible compensation for any loss you have suffered.
Can a Hotel Be Liable in a Personal Injury Claim?
When a guest is injured due to the carelessness or neglect of a hotel or it’s employees, the hotel may be liable in a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Hotels can be held liable for injuries to guests, and can be also held responsible for negligent acts of hotel employees.
Proving That a Hotel Was Negligent
In order to hold a hotel legally responsible for injuries that occurred on the premises, you’ll need to establish that the hotel was somehow negligent. That means showing that the hotel breached a duty owed to a person who was injured on the premises, and that the breach of duty caused the injury.
Hotel Duties to Guests
A hotel has a general duty to exercise reasonable care in operating its business and protecting guests. A hotel guest, considered an “invitee” under premises liability law, is legally entitled to a high amount of protection. A hotel must inspect the hotel grounds and maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. This duty includes quickly repairing dangerous conditions and taking affirmative steps to protect guests from known or reasonably discoverable conditions. For example, there is a duty to quickly clean up a spilled pitcher of water and a duty to post signs when a pipe located in a hallway is known to leak. In both situations, the hotel could be liable if a guest slipped on the water from the pitcher or the water from the pipe. Common hotel duties include a duty to maintain adequate lighting, a duty to keep steps dry and unobstructed, and a duty to repair hotel defects. Other general hotel duties and responsibilities to guests include:
• Control insect infestation (“bed bugs”)
• Maintain proper security (security guards and cameras) to avoid theft and assaults on guests
• Exercise reasonable care in hiring hotel staff
• Train hotel pool staff to prevent injuries to guests
• Maintain stairs and elevators
• Maintain locks on hotel rooms.
There is also a duty to reasonably construct hotel steps or warn guests of unusual staircase locations. Hotel guests have won lawsuits in which a hotel has been found liable for negligent design and construction where the staircase was located in a long hallway, there was no warning or caution sign, and the guests’ inability to exit the hotel resulted in injuries. A hotel has minimal duties to non-guests and trespassers. Non-guests have a right to enter the hotel premises with the permission of guests, but non-guests may be evicted for engaging in prohibited activities.
Hotel’s Breach of its Duties and Responsibilities
When a hotel does not inspect the premises, keep the premises reasonably safe, or fails to warn of dangerous conditions, it has breached its duty to guests. For example, when a hotel does not thoroughly clean its sheets, and bed bugs infect the bed, the hotel has breached its duty.
In all negligence cases, the defendant (the party being sued) must cause the plaintiff’s (party suing) injury. It must be reasonably foreseeable to the defendant that his or her actions could cause injury to the plaintiff. As a real-world example, a hotel is not negligent when a hotel guest slips on another guest’s spilled soda in their individual hotel room. However, the hotel could be liable if the room has just been cleaned by the hotel staff and an obvious spill or other hazard was not remedied.
The final necessary element is harm. To succeed in a case against the hotel, the guest must experience an injury or some other loss. So, in a slip and fall case involving an obvious safety hazard, the guest must have been injured by the fall. It’s not enough to show that there was a hazard, and that a fall occurred.
In legalese, “damages” is the amount of money awarded to a successful plaintiff as compensation for injuries. Depending on the type and severity of a hotel guest’s injury, recoverable damages might include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of companionship.
Liability of Hotels for Employee Conduct
Under a legal theory known as “vicarious liability,” a hotel may be liable for the harmful actions of employees. The hotel’s liability depends on whether the employee’s actions were performed “within the scope of employment.” A hotel may be liable for an employee’s actions even if the hotel did not sanction the conduct, was unaware of the incident, or did not have direct control or supervision over the employee at the time the incident occurred.
When you check into a hotel and place your luggage in your room, you usually assume that your belongings will remain safe. But it can often happen that your belongings may be stolen or damaged while at a hotel. The fact is that hotels have limited liability for your property unless you can show that the hotel or its staff members acted negligently. The legal rule that governs these cases is known as “innkeepers liability” and will determine whether the hotel is responsible for none, some, or the full amount of your losses. Here is a short guide to the innkeeper’s rule and how it can impact your legal rights.
Although it is an old-fashioned term, the term innkeeper is just a historical hold-over that refers to hotels and motels today. In the past, the rule stated that an “innkeeper” was liable for all losses and damage to a guest’s property, unless the loss was caused by a third party, an act of nature, or by the guest themselves. Today, most jurisdictions have modified this rule to limit the hotel’s liability as long as they abide by certain regulations. Every state has different laws concerning hotel liability, but there are some commonalities.
Common Hotel Liability Issues
Because a few scenarios have come up time and time again when it comes to hotel losses, most states now have laws limiting their liability in certain circumstances. For example, most states now have laws protecting hotels for events out of their control, such as an accidental fire or an act of nature like a hurricane. If this is the case, the hotel will not be liable for your belongings. There are also many cases where a guest may need to leave their luggage in the care of the hotel before checking in or after checking for safekeeping. The legal term for this is a bailment. If the luggage is stolen or damaged while it is in the hotel’s charge they will be liable for the full amount of losses. Having luggage stolen is usually what guests worry about most when it comes to hotels. The laws regarding liability for any stolen property varies depending on the state and the circumstances. Many differentiate between lost and stolen, where a claim for stolen property will likely succeed, a claim for lost property will not. State law may also limit a hotel’s liability if they post warning signs renouncing liability in their building or on their premises, such as waiving liability if a guest does not put valuables into the hotel-provided safe. But these signs may not absolve them completely. Check the specific jurisdiction’s laws and talk to an attorney for a clearer picture.
Beware of liability release forms. Most hotels now require their guests to sign one when they check in, which attempts to limit or deny any liability for losses under the stated circumstances. As long as the release does not violate any laws, they are usually binding. Another thing to be aware of is how guest actions may impact liability. If you leave your valuables sitting in a hotel lobby where the public is free to come and go without taking them to hotel staff for bailment security, then a hotel will likely deny liability. Most courts will find that it was the guest’s fault, relieving the hotel of liability.
Do I Need a Hotel Attorney?
The laws controlling hotel liability vary from state to state. Thus, it is important that you contact an attorney familiar with that state’s laws to assess your case. If you believe you have a claim against a hotel, they can advise you on the case’s likelihood of success, and tell you what legal actions you need to pursue to recover your losses. Hotel guests should be aware of certain laws and regulations or policies that could impact their visits. Special concerns affect the “hospitality industry” because its establishments hold their property open to the public at large. For hotels (collectively referred to as “innkeepers” under many state laws), duties owed to the public at large are based on the historic consideration that when weary travelers reached wayside inns as night approached, they were not to be arbitrarily turned away into the dark (the roads were filled with robbers) or otherwise subjected to the arbitrary mercy of the innkeeper with regard to prices or adequacy of quarters. Modern innkeepers’ laws are mostly based on old English common law.
Hotel Owner Lawyer
When you need legal help with a Hotel Owner Lawyer please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506