All property owners owe a duty of care to whoever comes onto their property. This duty of care is referred to as premises liability. The legal concept of premises liability holds property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. Generally, these accidents occur in and around a business.
Premises liability law requires that property owners ensure the safety of anyone who is present on their property by maintaining the premises and providing adequate warning of any unsafe or dangerous conditions. This means that property owners must take all reasonable measures in order to achieve this.
Premises liability and personal injury go hand in hand. Additionally, both legal concepts are related to the legal theory of negligence. Accidents that occur at a resort, hotel, motel, private association, or club facilities would be governed by standard negligence principles.
An example of an accident that could occur at such a place would be an accident in the swimming pool on the premises. Thus, hotels or resorts may be held liable for injuries to guests and visitors that occurred on the premises. Additionally, they may also be liable for negligent acts on the part of their staff and employees.
Simply put, negligence refers to the failure to use reasonable care. That failure then leads to injury or damage to another person. Negligence focuses on a person’s failure to take certain precautions, whereas other areas of law focus on the person’s direct actions.
How Can I Prove That a Resort or Hotel Was Negligent?
In order to hold a resort or hotel liable for any injuries that occurred on their premises, the injured party must prove that the resort or hotel was somehow negligent, or breached their duty of care. For a plaintiff to bring a negligence based lawsuit before a court, they will need to prove all four elements of a negligence claim. These elements are:
- Duty of Care: The hotel owes a duty of care to the injured party, to exercise reasonable measures in order to prevent any injuries on their premises. All persons have an obligation to protect other people from unreasonable risk of harm or injury. Some groups of people and professionals owe a higher duty of care than others. Such a group includes doctors, drivers, and lifeguards. Therefore, if a hotel or resort has a lifeguard monitoring their pool facilities, they will owe a higher duty of care;
- Breach of Duty: If the hotel or resort fails to inspect its premises that are open to all guests, or fails to maintain safe conditions, they may have breached their duty of care to their guests. In order to successfully bring a personal injury claim, the evidence must show a greater probability than not that the defendant breached their duty of care;
- Causation: The injured party must prove that the negligent act was the actual and proximate cause of the injuries being claimed. In general, the rule is that there must first be an actual cause in order for proximate cause to exist. Proximate cause refers to a test of foreseeability in order to determine if the defendant acted within the scope of their liability. However, proximate cause may not exist if there are other intervening acts. It would be unfair to hold a person liable for remote and unpredictable injuries or damages; and
- Damages: All three previous elements must be met in order for the plaintiff to then prove that there was some quantifiable loss or damage as a direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty. These damages may be physical, such as personal injuries. The damages may also be economic, such as monetary and financial losses, or a mix of the two.
What Are the Duties Owed By a Hotel or Resort to Their Guests?
Hotels and resorts have a general duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining safe premises for their guests. They have an additional duty to exercise reasonable care in operating the hotel business. These additional duties could include:
- Maintaining adequate lighting in guest access areas;
- Repairing any hotel defects that are unsafe and exposed;
- Controlling insect infestations, specifically bed bugs;
- Maintaining proper security in order to avoid crimes and theft;
- Training all pool staff to prevent injuries to guests;
- Maintaining all stairs and elevators; or
- Maintaining the locks to all hotel rooms.
The hotel or resort is responsible for inspecting the hotel premises for any existing dangerous conditions, and then taking reasonable steps in order to protect all guests from known or discoverable unsafe conditions. They are legally obligated to notify their guests of any unsafe or dangerous conditions that they are aware of, if they cannot remedy the situation.
For example, hotels and resorts may be found negligent for failing to provide a lifeguard for their pool facilities, or warning guests of the absence of a lifeguard. If a hotel or resort has a pool that is open to the public, the hotel or resort is required to train all pool staff in order to prevent any injuries to guests. Additionally, a hotel or resort may also be liable for a lifeguard’s inadequate supervision.
Some common injuries that happen to hotel guests include:
- Swimming pool premises being dangerous designed, or having a lack of supervision and warning in order to prevent injuries;
- Broken furniture;
- Slip and fall incidents due to a condition that the hotel should have been aware of; and
- Bed bug infestation due to failure to maintain sanitary conditions.
Generally, hotels and resorts cannot be held liable for criminal acts conducted by third parties who are not employees of the hotel. However, if the hotel knew, or should have anticipated the crime, they may be held liable. A hotel’s liability regarding theft from a guest’s room is limited, with the hotel generally only being liable if the guest can prove that the hotel was negligent in providing a safe premises. For example, if the lock on the room was faulty.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Hotel or Resort Injury?
You should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney if you have been injured at a hotel or resort, such as in their swimming pool facilities. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you gather evidence to prove that the hotel or resort was negligent. Additionally, an attorney can represent you in a court of law, as necessary.