When a guest in a hotel is injured on site, hotels can be liable for the negligent acts of hotel employees. In order for a hotel to be legally responsible for injuries incurred by a patron, plaintiffs need to establish that the hotel was somehow negligent. In other words, the hotel owed the visitor a duty of care, and breached that duty and the end result was that the person was injured.
Generally speaking, hotels have a duty to exercise reasonable care in operating the business and protecting guests. Under premises liability law, a hotel visitor would be considered an “invitee,” which means he or she would be entitled to a high level of protection (as compared to, say, a trespasser or someone who is on site strictly for their own benefit). Invitees can generally expect that a hotel would conduct background checks on its employees, make the parking lots secure and have locks on the doors, maintain stairs and elevators and train pool staff on prevention of guest injuries. It also means that hotels would take care to reduce the chances of a slip-and-fall accident on site.
In the recent case, weighed by the Idaho Supreme Court, plaintiff suffered personal injury in a fall at a hotel. The issue the state high court had to consider was whether the statute of limitations (the time limit she had in which to file his claim) should be tolled (extended) because of confusion in identifying the actual owner of the hotel at the time of the incident. This case underscores why it is so imperative to have an experienced hotel injury attorney handling your case.
According to court records, plaintiff was injured when he fell on a wet floor at the hotel.
In preparing the lawsuit, plaintiff’s attorney scanned the Secretary of State’s database to ascertain the owner. They discovered based on that record that it was a company we’ll call L&L. The site stated the certificate of assumed business was current. However, the truth was another company, S.R., acquired the hotel prior to plaintiff’s fall.
Plaintiff filed the lawsuit, and south to serve process on the individual who was authorized to accept it at L&L. However, that individual refused to accept service because, he pointed out, his company didn’t own the company at the time of plaintiff’s slip-and-fall injury.
Plaintiff then south a motion to amend his complaint and served process of the amended complaint on S.R. He then filed a stipulation to dismiss L&L.
Subsequently, attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case on the grounds it wasn’t timely served notice of the personal injury lawsuit, which was granted. Plaintiff sought reconsideration, which was denied, at which point he appealed.
Plaintiff argued the reason he hadn’t served process on defendant earlier was that defendant never officially updated its stance with the Secretary of State’s Office. What the district court decided – and what was ultimately affirmed by the state high court – was that plaintiff failed to use reasonable diligence in determining who owned the business. Specifically, plaintiff’s only action on this was to search the Secretary of State’s database to seek confirmation of ownership.
There is a statute in that state that requires businesses to file with the secretary of state so that the public record is a true reflection of the person who owns the business. The statute further indicates that someone who sustains a loss as a result of the failure of that company to file should be compensated for those losses. The court had previously held that it would consider tolling the statute of limitations for persons affected by a business’s failure to file, it has yet to have been presented with facts that would have warranted such tolling.
The court ruled that the district court correctly dismissed the claim, which was remanded on a technicality but with the understanding that “there is no prevailing party.”
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Gallagher v. Best Western Cottontree Inn, Jan. 19, 2017, Idaho Supreme Court
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