Hotel Liability for Guests' Belongings
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Can a Hotel be Liable for a Guest's Personal Belongings?
Hotels are limited in their liability for your personal belongings. Limited liability means that the hotel will only be liable for a given amount, regardless of the value of your loss. However, if you can show that the hotel or its staff's negligence was the cause of your loss, then the hotel will be liable for the full value.
Is a Hotel Always Liable for a Guest's Personal Belongings?
If negligence is not shown, hotel liability depends on state law. Here are some common examples where hotel liability is an issue:
- Acts outside the hotel's control - Many states have laws that protect hotels from being liable for acts that hotels couldn't control. For example, hotels are not liable for your belongings if an act of nature or a fire destroys the hotel. An exception in many states is that hotels will be liable for criminal acts committed by others on hotel guests under certain circumstances.
- Warning signs - For example, a sign in the lobby that states "This hotel is not responsible for any stolen or lost items" may be enough for hotels to avoid liability. However, some states hold that a simple sign without any other precautions is not enough.
- Lost vs. Stolen items - Many states have laws that distinguish between lost and stolen items. Hotels are generally more likely to avoid liability for a lost item then a stolen item.
- Bailments - A bailment (not to be confused with bail) occurs when you leave personal items in the care of another person. For example, checking in bags or parking your car with a valet is considered a bailment. In such situations, the hotel will be liable for the full value of the goods since they are in the hotel's custody.
Can a Hotel's Liability Depend on the Guest's Actions?
Yes it can. For example, if you act negligently and end up losing your property, you cannot place the blame on the hotel. A common occurrence involves the safe for your valuables provided by a hotel room. If you don't use the safe and your valuables are stolen, some states will hold that the hotel is not liable since you could have protected your valuables but did not do so.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Hold a Hotel Liable for Lost or Stolen Property?
Since state laws regarding hotel liability vary so widely, you should consult an experienced attorney if you believe you have a claim against a hotel. An attorney who knows the local laws will be able to inform you of what you can recover and other possible actions against the hotel.
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Last Modified: 08-22-2012 03:17 PM PDT
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