There are countless exposures inherent in running a hotel or resort that can result in hotel claims with major settlements and judgments rendered should catastrophic incidents or events occur. A hotel operation is obligated to exercise reasonable care in operating its business and protecting guests.
In meeting its obligation, a hotel must inspect its grounds and maintain the property in a reasonable condition. Common hotel duties and responsibilities include:
- Maintaining adequate lighting
- Keeping steps dry and unobstructed
- Repairing hotel defects
- Controlling insect infestation
- Maintaining proper security (security guards and cameras) to avoid theft and assaults on guests
- Exercising reasonable care in hiring hotel staff
- Training hotel pool staff to prevent injuries to guests
- Maintaining stairs and elevators
- Maintaining hotel room locks
If something goes wrong – whether a serious or fatal injury arising from a slip-and-fall accident or a security breach that results in an assault against a guest – and the guest can prove negligence on the part of the hotel, the financial and reputational consequences for a hotel operation can be devastating. Following are five examples of top hotel claims that have occurred in the last several years.
1. $38 Million+ Premises Liability Verdict Awarded to California Hotel Guest
A guest staying at a Southern California hotel was awarded $38.6 million after a jury found the hotel responsible in a premises liability case. The guest fell over a second-story walkway railing and onto the parking lot below, and suffered catastrophic personal injuries including brain damage. The plaintiff’s attorney showed that the walkway railing was unsafe as it was too short, and violated building codes that require railings to be at least three feet tall.
2. Father Awarded $25 Million after Daughter Dies at Hotel Birthday Party
A father of a ten-year-old girl who died during a birthday party held at a hotel sued the lifeguard, hotel owner, and franchisee. His daughter was attending a birthday party for a friend who was using the hotel’s indoor pool and water playground when the incident occurred. The complaint alleged that the decedent and another girl climbed the ladder to the top of the water tube slide. The lifeguard advised them that they could only go down one at a time.
The first girl went down the slide without incident. The complaint stated that before the decedent reached the top and entered the tube, the lifeguard stepped away from his post to use his cell phone. The decedent then entered the tube and slid to the bottom. According to the complaint, the second girl bobbed on the surface in the deep end of the pool for approximately 90 seconds before she sank to the bottom. The complaint alleged that the girl remained at the bottom of the pool for six minutes before the lifeguard saw her. Despite resuscitation attempts by emergency responders, the girl was pronounced dead. A jury awarded the father $25 million.
3. Jury Awards Hotel Guest $5 Million after Elevator Injury
A man who suffered permanent spinal damage from an elevator malfunction at a hotel on the West Coast was awarded $5 million. The elevator he was in suddenly dropped before coming to a violent stop. Repair records indicated the elevator frequently broke down. Maintenance checks of the elevators were required to be done at least 24 times a year, yet the elevator maintenance contractor performed only five inspections in the year before the malfunction.
4. Hotel Hit with Multi-Million-Dollar Settlement in Bed Bug Case
An airport hotel on the East Coast settled a multi-million-dollar case with a husband and wife who were bitten by bed bugs while sleeping. Subsequent medical attention was required, along with treatment for approximately one month after the incident. The couple was traumatized by the incident, and the husband was left with residual bite marks as a result of the attack.
5. Hotel Wrongful Death Case Results in $3.75 Million Verdict
A robber shot two hotel guests in a parking lot, killing one person and injuring the other. The jury found negligent security on the part of the hotel and awarded the decedent’s family $3.75 million for wrongful death, and $150,000.00 for medical expenses to the injured party.
In addition to these cases, there have been high-profile incidents such as the shooting in 2017 that took place at a Las Vegas hotel venue killing 58 people and injuring scores of others. Most recently, it was announced that an out-of-court settlement was reached to pay up to $800 million to the families of those killed and injured.
In another case a woman was awarded $55 million after being videotaped in her hotel room. The plaintiff alleged the hotel was negligent for failing to protect her safety and privacy.
Ensuring that strong risk management practices are in place is critical in helping hotels and resorts minimize their exposures. Additionally, make sure to secure proper Liability limits, including a high-limit Umbrella policy that will step in when primary General Liability limits are exhausted. Distinguished’s Umbrella program for hotels and resorts provides up to $250 million in limits.