Hotel Accidents: Hurt by Another Hotel Guest?

Posted By on July 28, 2015

Last Update: 01/05/16

Miami and Broward hotels as well as those in Palm Beach are known not just for their luxurious suites and four star restaurants, but also for their bars and nightclubs and special events. Which means, that there are all sorts of places where hotel guests can get hurt or seriously injured. Accidents at Florida hotels can occur in hotel rooms, in the lobby, on the elevators, or in the pool area or on the dance floor. Wedding receptions and graduation parties? The hotel has a responsibility and duty to all of these patrons to keep them safe and provide adequate security.

Thus, hotel owners and operators can be liable for injuries to not only hotel guests but to people visiting a guest as well. Liability can include paying for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more caused by the negligent acts of the hotel itself or one of its employees.

But what happens if one hotel guest is hurt by another hotel guest? Does this mean that the hotel isn’t liable?

 
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What Happens When You’re Hurt by another Hotel Guest in Your Hotel?

Under Florida’s premises liability law, if you are hurt in an accident involving another hotel guest, your hotel may be responsible for your injuries if you can show the hotel breached its duty of care to you.

In order for the injury victim to prevail against the hotel, they will have to prove their claim by gathering admissible evidence, including witness testimony, written statements, video footage, cell phone photos, etc showing how the hotel was at fault.  Fortunately, Florida law (statutes and case law) defines some of the duties placed upon hotels (and motels, etc.) when it comes to protecting it guests and other invitees.

Florida Hotels and Premises Liability as “Public Lodging Establishments”

In Florida, hotels are given special consideration under the law because of the type of business in which they are engaged. Florida hotels have a specific “duty of care” to protect both the hotel guests or patrons as well as the general public from reasonably foreseeable acts that can hurt someone. In fact, Chapter 509 of the Florida Statutes contains a entire series of laws where the lawmakers at the Florida Legislature have placed special responsibilities upon hotels as “public lodging establishments” to make sure that they protect people in the course of their business operations.

Florida Law on Guest on Guest Accidents at a Florida Hotel

Under Florida law, the general rule for any business that is open to make a profit off of public entertainment, like a hotel bar or restaurant or party room, has a duty to all its business invitees to use due care in making sure that the premises of that hotel entertainment area are in a reasonably safe condition. This means that the hotel proprietor has to make every reasonable effort to keep order among those in the bar or restaurant or private room – both customers and employees – as well as anyone who comes onto the hotel premises who might harm or inconvenience them. Holiday Inns, Inc. v. Shelburne, 576 So.2d 322, 331 (Fla.App.1991) citing the Florida Supreme Court in Stevens v. Jefferson.

The Case of the Hotel Private Party

Consider the case of Hendry v. Zelaya. In this case, Marcos Zelaya was at the Clevelander Hotel in Miami Beach with his girlfriend at a private party in a separate hotel party room. The party was a celebration for Zelaya’s completion of SWAT Team training, and the party included around 100 off-duty Miami Beach Police Department police officers, who were all dressed up for the occasion in their best party outfits.

It was the Memorial Day weekend. Hotel management knew that holiday weekends stirred things up, and asked the police department for extra security at the celebration. One officer was scheduled by the police department to serve as security at the hotel on the night of the party; when he got there and observed the hotel patrons in the hotel bar, he called and asked for back-up.

The day before the event, both the manager of the hotel restaurant and the hotel’s head security officer had also foreseen that there might be a holiday control problem. Both advised management that the property was under-staffed. They each advised management that more security was needed over and above the four in-house hotel security officers and the single Miami Beach police officer. Their opinion was ignored.

At the private party celebration, as Marcos Zelaya was walking past the hotel’s yogurt bar, someone reached out and grabbed his girlfriend. As Officer Zelaya pushed the man away, he was hit in the head by a beer bottle by another hotel patron. That single hit fractured his skull and caused permanent brain damage.

The hotel was held liable for Officer Zelaya’s injuries because what happened to him was held to be foreseeable by the hotel owner and operator. The Clevelander Hotel was found to owe Marcos Zelaya a duty of care to keep him safe from injury by another hotel patron (they knew it would be a busy weekend and they didn’t have enough security in place to control the crowds).

At trial, the jury awarded $4.5 Million for past and future pain and suffering to Marcos Zelaya and when the hotel tried to appeal that award, it lost: “… evidence showed that patron suffered permanent brain damage, migraines, and depression….”

See Hendry v. Zelaya, 841 So. 2d 572 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2003).

What Should You Do?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed at a business or commercial location, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.

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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.

 

 

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