Hotels can be held liable when hotel guests who are on their property are injured, or have their personal property stolen. There is a common law “innkeeper’s duty” which states that “innkeepers (hotel owners)” are responsible for injuries to and theft from their guests.

Another name for this type of liability is “premises liability”, which states that owners of land and buildings can be held liable for injuries to or theft from their guests. Injuries to guests may be caused by unsafe conditions on the property. Theft may be perpetrated by other hotel guests or by employees of the hotel. Hotels can also be held liable for actions of their employees.

When a hotel guest brings a claim against a hotel, it is usually for negligence, which means the hotel failed to do something they were responsible for in ensuring the safety of the guest and their belongings. It is unlikely that a guest would bring a claim against a hotel for an intentional action, as hotels and their employees are unlikely to intentionally harm their guests. Therefore, the claim is usually for negligence, which must be proven in a court of law.

How Do I Prove that a Hotel was Negligent?

When a hotel guest experiences an injury or has their personal property stolen while on hotel property, they may bring a claim of negligence against the hotel. In order to prove that negligence occurred, the following elements must be proven in court:

  1. The guest was a paying customer of the hotel at the time, and was considered an “invitee”;
  2. Being an invitee, the hotel owed to the guest a duty of reasonable care, based on the standards of reasonable hotels caring for their guests;
  3. The duty was breached because of the hotel’s negligence, or failure to complete some action, which resulted in the guest’s claim; and
  4. In breaching the duty of care, the hotel directly caused the injury to or theft from the guest.

What are the Duties Owed by a Hotel?

As mentioned above, the duty a hotel owes to its guests is to meet the industry standards of care to guests. The hotel must take care of certain things on the hotel property, and among its employees and other guests, to make sure all guests have the duty of care met. Invitees of property owners are always owed this duty, and are owed protection.

What follows is a list of common duties hotels are responsible for to insure the safety of their guests. Hotels must:

  1. Keep the hotel and hotel grounds in safe condition for guests;
  2. Stay aware of any unsafe conditions, make repairs swiftly, and inform guests of any possibly unsafe conditions until repairs are made;
  3. Make sure there is security, as needed;
  4. Hire enough staff and train and oversee them properly;
  5. Take care of any health and sanitation issues, to include infect infestations such as bed bugs; and
  6. Make sure all locks on guest room doors function properly.

What are Some Common Examples of when a Hotel Is Liable to its Guests?

There are myriad ways a hotel can be responsible for injuries to or theft from its guests. If negligence by the hotel can be proven, according to the elements listed above, then a guest can receive monetary damages for their suffering. Here are some of the most common claims of negligence guests make against hotels:

  • Personal injury – if a guest is injured during the course of their stay on hotel property, they may bring a claim against the hotel;
  • A guest who has items stolen from their room may make a claim;
  • A guest may sue a hotel because another hotel guest committed a crime against them;
  • Because of infect infestations (bed bugs);
  • Because of stairs or elevators in need of repair; and
  • For actions of hotel employees

Can a Hotel be Liable for the Actions of its Employees?

Yes, if an employee causes injury to a guest, or steals items from a guest, the hotel may be held liable. This does not require that the hotel have had any knowledge which led to the incident. In a case like this, the guest would still just need to prove that the hotel is guilty of negligence.

Under the theory of vicarious liability, the hotel is responsible for its employees’ actions, as long as the employee completed the action within the “scope of their employment,” meaning in the course of their job duties.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Hotel Liability Problem?

If you have been injured or have had items stolen during a hotel stay, you may have a claim against the hotel. You might want to contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and the possible compensation for any loss you have suffered.