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Hotel Assault

R. Britton Colbert, CHA
Hotel Management & Operations Consultant ::::

Case Synopsis: Fraternity held party at 32-room independent motor lodge. Owner of the motor lodge intended to redevelop the property, but operated the motor lodge only to accommodate room reservations through the anticipated fall closing and to collect as much cash flow as possible.  Fraternity member, who was also a former motor lodge summer employee, suggested holding the party at the hotel, fully aware that no employee or management would be present after 5 pm based on an established pattern by the owner. Absence of security, patrolling, adequate lighting, emergency procedures and staffing were also well established traits of the owner.  Former employee also retained hotel's master room key. Police who responded to a noise complaint estimated that approximately 40 people, majority of who were under the age of 21, were at the hotel consuming alcohol and being disruptive. Access to guest rooms was facilitated by use of the master key and provided temporary sanctuary from the police.  A 19-year old girl was assaulted and her attacker was convicted. A 21-year old received a misdemeanor charge for providing alcohol, and 10 other attendees received summons for underage drinking.

Expert Analysis: Customary and accepted hotel operating practices and standards of property control, management on duty assignments, patrolling, security, key control and emergency procedures were examined and testified to at trial. Property abandonment by the owner/operator is inexcusable, contradicts all hotel operating standards and placed all the other hotel guests and party attendees in great personal danger.

Result: Jury found for the plaintiff, based on the abandonment of the property coupled with the absence of numerous hotel industry operating practices and standards.

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