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Rick Shapiro
Rick Shapiro
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New Court Decision Holds Hotels Liable For Many Criminal Attacks

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It is reasonable for the law to impose upon the innkeeper, and on the common carrier, a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect his guests against injury caused by the criminal conduct on the part of other guests or strangers if the danger of injury by such conduct is known to the innkeeper or reasonably foreseeable….”

In March, 2006, the Virginia Supreme Court announced a major decision that affects hotel and motel liability where guests are assaulted, injured or killed.

Many lawyers in Virginia had thought that there was very limited liability for hotels when a guest is assaulted by a criminal in a parking lot or other location. However, in this case, Taboda v. Daily Seven, Inc., the Virginia Supreme Court said that an innkeeper or hotel’s liability is similar to the higher duty of care on a common carrier. The court reasoned that because the common carrier alone knows the condition of his vehicle and the dangers of the neighborhoods and environs through which the roots of travel may lie…., thus the higher duty applies.

The Virginia Supreme Court went on to state:

“It is reasonable for the law to impose upon the innkeeper, and on the common carrier, a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect his guests against injury caused by the criminal conduct on the part of other guests or strangers, if the danger of injury by such conduct is known to the innkeeper or reasonably foreseeable….”

The case noted that this innkeeper or hotel standard of care is higher than that on a landlord or business invitor. The Virginia Supreme Court went out of its way to state that notice of a specific danger under the concept of reasonably foreseeable danger does not require degree of knowledge of criminal assaults but the general concept of reasonably foreseeable dangers in general.

In this specific case ruled upon, the hotel guest was shot eight times in the hotel parking lot. He was walking from the hotel back to his vehicle in the parking lot while having just checked in. The court took note that the hotel had employed uniform security guards in the past, but had stopped doing so to save money. Also, in the prior three year period preceding the shooting, there had been ninety-six police calls to the hotel.