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Are Hotels Responsible for Your Safety and Security?

Posted in Consumer Safety on November 25, 2022

In the early hours of a November morning, a man was shot and killed at FairBridge Inn Express on Boardwalk Drive. A week before this shooting, a 19-year-old woman was injured in a shooting at an OYO hotel on Gwenadele Ave. These are only the most recent incidents in a long timeline of deadly occurrences at Baton Rouge’s budget hotels along the I-12 corridor—a stretch of highway that law enforcement has deemed as a hotbed for criminal activity.

The East Baton Rouge District Attorney recently released data identifying 10 of the parish’s most deadly places for violent crime and overdoses were budget motels. Five of these motels are located on 1-12.

Back in 2018, East Baton Rouge passed an ordinance to address the problem. The ordinance mandated hotels and motels apply through the city-parish for operating permits. If the motels/hotels were found to host any activity that threatened safety, or had a negative impact on the health or welfare of their guests or nearby residents, then the permits could be suspended or revoked.

These activities were supposed to be tracked by evaluating the amount and nature of the calls to law enforcement over a certain period. More than four years later and city-parish officials have yet to issue a single fine, nor has a single permit been suspended or revoked. Many of the motels/hotels never applied for the required permits.

City-parish administration claim the ordinance had a three-fold problem:

  1. A lack of protocol concerning identifying non-compliant businesses
  2. A lack of funding to track the activity and enforce the ordinance
  3. No description of the appeals processes for non-compliant businesses

Whether someone checks into a motel/hotel for vacation or a respite in their travels, they expect their stay to be safe. So, who is responsible for making sure the law-abiding guests of these or any other motels/hotels are kept safe? 

The Innkeeper’s Rule

There is a rule in place to regulate how a hotelier conducts their business and for what a hotel owner is liable. This is known as the Innkeeper Rule. The term dates to old English and refers to anyone who managed an inn.

Both the old rule and the newer rule deal with guest property and safety. The old rule states that innkeepers are liable to any lost or damaged property a guest incurs while staying at the establishment. There are exceptions. The innkeeper is not responsible for any loss that occurs because of an act of nature, a third party, or the guest’s own negligence.

Currently, the Innkeeper’s rule has limited the hotel’s liability in most situations, and different states have modified it in separate ways. But there are still certain regulations and consistencies among all these variations of the Innkeeper’s Rule.

Innkeeper’s insurance is available for motel and hotel owners to purchase. This type of policy covers the lost or damaged property of the lodger while they are on the premises. If a guest’s property is stolen while it is on the premises of a motel or hotel, the guest can bring a negligence claim against the establishment. 

Proving the hotel is negligent requires a few factors, including:

  • The claimant needs to prove they were a paying guest or invitee at the time of the incident because the motel/hotel owes all invitees the duty of reasonable care.
  • The claimant should provide ways the motel/hotel failed or was negligent in providing the duty of reasonable care.
  • The claimant should show how the motel/hotel caused the theft or damage of a guest’s property by breaching the duty of reasonable care.

Duty of Responsible Care

The duty of responsible care requires a motel/hotel to meet the industry standards of care to its guests. It is non-negotiable for property owners to provide this duty to care for their invitees while they are on the property. 

Some of these required duties guarantee certain levels of safety, including:  

  • Providing security when needed
  • Maintaining enough staff and making sure they are trained and supervised
  • Ensuring the proper function of all locks on guest room doors
  • Maintaining safe conditions on the property 
  • Being aware of and making quick repairs to any unsafe conditions
  • Making guests aware of any unsafe conditions until they are repaired
  • Taking care of heath and/or sanitation issues, including insect or rodent infestations

The law in many states is set up to protect motels/hotels in the event of forces out of their control. Accidental fires and acts of God like natural disasters (tornados or hurricanes) relieve the establishment of liability for a guest’s lost or damaged property. 

If an invitee’s luggage is in bailment or left in the motel/hotel’s care for safekeeping before checking or after checking in, the establishment could be liable for all losses if the luggage is lost, stolen, or damaged. 

The law distinguishes between lost and stolen property, and often, a lost property claim will not succeed, whereas a stolen property claim will succeed. Motels and hotels often post warnings stating guests waive liability for damaged or stolen property if they do not use safes provided by the property, but notifications like these do not necessarily absolve the motel/hotel from complete liability.

Other Situations of Hotel Liability

Hotel Law

If a motel/hotel had a duty to prevent an action and failed to provide reasonable care to prevent the action from occurring, the establishment could be seen as negligent. If the motel/hotel is aware of criminal activities on the premises and does not take the necessary steps to thwart or prevent the crimes, then they can be seen as liable. A motel/hotel is responsible for providing safe conditions on the premises.

Under the previously discussed motel/hotel ordinance in the city-parish, a business can be held liable according to negligence per se. This occurs when a business violates a statute, like allowing too much criminal activity on its premises. The mote/hotel’s action or inaction makes them susceptible to a negligence claim. 

If a claimant wants to prove negligence per se, they will need to:

  • Show how a motel/hotel violated a safety statute
  • Show how the motel/hotel’s negligence allowed the invitee to be put in an unsafe situation that the statute was created to prevent
  • Show that the claimant was an invitee, and the statute was meant to protect them

In any case, the guest or invitee must ensure their actions do not supersede the motel/hotel’s liability. That means following all the state’s laws and the establishment’s rules and regulations.

If you are dealing with a hotel liability matter, contact the firm today at (504) 500-5000 or at our website to schedule an appointment.