All owners of property have a duty of care to individuals who come onto their property. This duty of care is called premises liability.
This legal concept holds a property owner responsible for any accidents or injuries that occur on their property. In general, these accidents occur in or around businesses.
Premises liability law requires that the property owner ensure the safety of all individuals who are present on their property by maintaining the premises and by providing an adequate warning of any unsafe or dangerous conditions. In other words, a property owner is required to take all reasonable measures to keep other individuals safe.
Both the legal theories of premises liability and personal injury are related to the legal theory of negligence. Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, which leads to injuries or damage.
Hotels and resorts may be held liable for injuries to visitors and guests that happen on their premises. They may also be held liable for negligent conduct on the part of staff or employees.
Hotels operate under regulations that provide standards of safety that must be provided to all guests. Hotel guests are provided with a high level of protection under liability laws.
The hotel has a high standard of duty to keep the guests safe, which includes benign required to:
- Keep the property and grounds safe and clean;
- Immediately fix any dangerous conditions;
- Post signs that alert guests of any dangerous conditions before they are fixed.
What Are the Duties Owed by a Hotel or Resort to Their Guests?
Generally, hotels and resorts have a duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining safe premises for their visitors and guests. They also had additional duties to exercise reasonable care when operating the hotel business, for example:
- Maintaining adequate lighting in guest access areas;
- Repairing any defects that are unsafe and exposed;
- Controlling insect infestations, specifically bed bugs;
- Maintaining sufficient security to avoid crimes and theft;
- Training all pool staff to prevent injuries to guests;
- Maintaining all stairs and elevators;
- Maintaining the locks to all hotel rooms.
The hotel or resort is responsible for inspecting the hotel premises for any dangerous conditions that may be present. They are also responsible for taking reasonable steps to protect guests from any known or discoverable unsafe conditions. These businesses are also legally obligated to notify guests of any unsafe or dangerous condition that they are aware of but are not able to remedy.
For example, a hotel or resort may be found negligent for a failure to provide a lifeguard for their pool facility or for failing to warn guests that they do not have a lifeguard. If the business has a pool that is open to the public, they are required to train all pool staff on how to prevent injuries to guests.
In addition, if the hotel or resort does have a lifeguard, it may be held liable for that lifeguard’s inadequate supervision of guests if it results in injuries. Some common injuries that hotel guests suffer involve:
- Swimming pool areas being dangerous designed or lacking supervision and warnings in order to prevent injuries;
- Broken furniture;
- Slip and fall incidents due to a condition that the hotel should have been aware of;
- Bed bug infestations because of a failure to maintain sanitary conditions.
In general, a hotel or resort cannot be held liable for a criminal act that was committed by a third party who was not an employee of the hotel. If, however, the hotel was aware of or should have anticipated the crime, then it may be held liable.
The liability of a hotel regarding theft from guest rooms is also limited. Generally, the hotel will only be held liable if the guest is able to prove that the hotel was negligent in providing safe premises.
For example, this may occur if the lock on the hotel room door is faulty. Hotels are also responsible for any gym areas if they are available for public use.
When Is a Hotel Gym Liable for Guest Injuries?
As noted above, hotels are liable for injury to guests if those injuries occur on the hotel property and if the employees of the hotel were negligent. In general, negligence requires a plaintiff, or injured party, to provide certain elements, including:
- There was a duty of care;
- That duty of care was breached;
- The breach caused the injury; and
- There are damages that resulted from the injury.
If a guest is injured in the hotel gym due to the hotel’s breach of duty of care in any of the areas noted above, the hotel can be held liable under premise liability law. Common issues that arise with hotel gyms include, but are not limited to:
- Providing illegible instructions on machines for how to use them;
- Machines that are positioned too close together;
- Infections that spread because of unsanitary conditions;
- Machines that are dangerous due to being:
- In bad condition;
- Poorly maintained.
What Defenses Can a Hotel Use?
There are some defenses that a hotel may be able to present in response to a claim of premises liability or negligence. A hotel has many responsibilities regarding adherence to maintenance and safety regulations, including:
- Controlling bed bug infestations;
- Keeping guesses safe from theft and assault;
- Keeping all stairways and elevators in working order;
- Making sure all locks are working correctly in the guest rooms.
As swimming pool injuries are also common, hotels must ensure that they follow all applicable laws to keep their guests safe when using the hotel pool. It is important to note that these protections are not necessarily extended to individuals who are not guests.
If an individual who was injured was not a paying guest of the hotel, the hotel may use that fact as a defense. The individual must have also suffered harm.
If the plaintiff was not actually harmed, the hotel would not be liable. For example, if a plaintiff trips on a machine in the gym because it is placed too close to another machine, but they do not require medical attention, it does not rise to the level of actual harm.
In contrast, if the individual is injured when a weight falls from a poorly maintained machine and has to have surgery on a broken foot, the hotel can be held liable.
Can a Plaintiff Recover Remedies?
A plaintiff may be able to obtain damages awarded in a hotel liability case that will provide them with reimbursement for:
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you have been injured while you were staying at a hotel as a guest, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. Your lawyer can advise you of the responsibilities of the hotel as well as the possible damages you may recover.
Personal injury cases often require medical expert testimony to explain to a judge or jury the extent of your injuries and how they affected your life. In addition, there is a time limit on filing this type of case, usually two years, so it is important to reach out to a lawyer as soon as you can.