Sue a Hotel for Carjacking? Victim Claims It Was Foreseeable, Preventable.

A woman in South Florida is suing a luxury hotel in Miami and a valet service after she claims she was injured in a violent carjacking as she unloaded her belonging in the carport of the building, where the bustling valet service was operating.

Keys in the ignition of a car Keys representing unlocking an idea, treasure, or love

In the case of Stept v. Met II Hotel LLC, plaintiff is seeking punitive damages and other sanctions against the hotel, arguing staffers at the hotel and valet services knew there was a potential for carjacking and failed to update its procedures – even after a previous attempt from this very same suspect.

According to reports from Courtroom View Network, which is following the case, the victim sustained serious damage to her arm and mental health in the incident. She was forced to undergo elbow surgery on her left arm and still struggles with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Defendant’s alleged failure to act was an egregious breach of duty, plaintiff argues, in light of the threat this suspect posed. 

The incident happened in September 2014 in Miami. Surveillance video of the incident from NBC-6 Miami shows plaintiff pulling up to the hotel carport in the valet lane. A few second later, attendants with the valet service starts unloading her items from her trunk. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a man runs up and jumps into the front seat of the vehicle. He then throws the car into reverse, slamming into two valet attendants.

Suspect carjacker then violently moved the car back and forth in an attempt to escape, slamming into several cars – and people – as he did so. Plaintiff had tried to chase after the man, at one point grabbing onto the side of the car, which is how she reportedly sustained her elbow injury.

The suspect was soon caught and arrested. Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to a laundry list of felonies and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He had an extensive criminal history, with prior convictions for carjacking, drugs, burglary, fleeing from police and even second-degree murder.

This incident occurred in broad daylight, around 10:30 a.m. Surveillance footage shows the suspect looking at the brand new luxury car. He then boldly moves in as attendants are unloading the vehicle. He initially got away, but authorities found the Lexus abandoned a short distance later. Authorities identified him from the video camera. He was believed to be connected to another carjacking at a different nearby hotel, and he also was suspected of trying to pull this same stunt at the same hotel before.

It’s this history on which plaintiff is basing her argument of foreseeability. In fact, there is evidence to indicate he may have been connected to as many as five carjacking attempts on defendant Park One Valet service vehicles in the region in prior months. The companies were aware of these incidents, which tended to follow the same mode of operation of scouting out unattended vehicles in the valet lane.

As plaintiff’s attorney explained, the company failed to change its procedure or warn patrons of the possible risk.

Attorneys say people who pull up to a five-star hotel expect they will be safe. Yet to this day, defendants reportedly have not altered their procedures.

Premises liability claims like this will focus on whether the crime was foreseeable and whether the property owner took reasonable steps to mitigate the risk and warn patrons.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Battle set for possible punitives claim against luxury hotel in suit over carjacking, June 10, 2016, By Arlin Crisco, CVN

More Blog Entries:

Alcala v. Marriott Int’l, Inc. – $1.2M Slip-and-Fall Verdict Reversed, New Trial Ordered, July 9, 2016, Premises Liability Lawyer Blog

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