Last Update: 5/5/23
According to Florida case law as of the date of this article, Florida law imposes a duty on a hotel or similar establishment to keep his or her buildings, premises, and appliances—or at least those parts to which the guests are invited or may reasonably be expected to use—in a condition that is reasonably safe for his or her guests to use.
Hotel Guest Beaten, Clerk Won’t Let Him Call Police from Lobby Phone
In Grant, a man named Jimmie Lee Grant was staying at the Ramada Inn. Officially, under Florida law, as a guest of the motel, he was a “business invitee.”
Jimmie Lee Grant was attacked on the hotel premises. The attacker was a third party.
Hurt, Mr. Grant went to the motel lobby. He asked the desk clerk to let him use the motel lobby phone to call the police. The desk clerk refused.
Jimmie Lee Grant sued Ramada for damages sustained in the criminal attack (pain and suffering and other economic and non-economic damages). He also sued the security company U.S. Security Services, arguing that its security guard, who was on duty at the motel that evening, was actively negligent in failing to protect him.
QUICK FACT: A victim of a hotel’s negligence has 2 years from the date of the incident, such as a slip and fall, to file a lawsuit based on premises liability. If a death resulted from the incident, then the deadline to file a lawsuit is 2 years too.
Mr. Grant won his case. On appeal, it was held that Ramada had a non-delegable duty to the plaintiff because he was Ramada’s business invitee.
This duty was to provide the plaintiff with reasonably safe premises. Ramada’s duty to keep Jimmie Lee Grant safe included reasonable protection of Mr. Grant against third-party criminal attacks.
It was totally acceptable under Florida law for Ramada to contract with a security company to perform this duty. Hiring USS, an independent contractor, to provide the required security for its guests created no legal liability for Ramada.
However, Ramada could not hide behind that contract. The hotel remained vicariously responsible for any negligence of USS, its security service company.
This is because Ramada could not delegate away its legal duty to its business invitees. See, Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts § 71, at 511-12 (W. Page Keeton et al. eds., 5th ed. 1984); Mortgage Guarantee Ins. Corp. v. Stewart, 427 So.2d 776, 780 (Fla. 3d DCA), rev. denied, 436 So.2d 101 (Fla. 1983); Goldin v. Lipkind, 49 So.2d 539, 541 (Fla. 1950).
Accordingly, Ramada and USS were jointly and severally liable for USS’s 35% negligence, and Ramada was individually liable for its own 50% negligence.
In vicarious liability, joint and several liability judgments must be entered against both the active tortfeasor (the security company) and the party which is vicariously responsible for the active tortfeasor’s negligence (hotel), in accordance with the percentage of negligence attributed by the jury in its verdict to the active tortfeasor (the security company).
Additionally, the vicarious-liability defendant (Ramada) is also solely liable for any active negligence committed by one of its employees (the clerk in the lobby).
Hotel Cannot Delegate Its Responsibility To A Third Party
Ramada’s duty to provide its business invitees with reasonably safe business premises, including reasonable protection against third party criminal attacks, is a non-delegable duty which it cannot contract out of by hiring an independent contractor.
This is longstanding Florida law:
“The law imposes on hotels, apartments, innkeepers, etc., the duty to keep their buildings, premises and appliances in a condition reasonably safe for the use of their guests, or at least those parts of the buildings and premises to which the guest are invited and may reasonably be expected to use. The duty of maintaining safe premises cannot be delegated to another.” Goldin v. Lipkind, 49 So.2d 539, 541 (Fla. 1950) (emphasis added).
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