Hotels Must Provide Adequate Security for their Guests
By Chaucer’s time, English common law recognized the responsibilities of innkeepers to their customers. The innkeeper was required, among other things, to provide food, lodging and a safe harbor for guests. These principles were carried across the Atlantic and, by and large, helped shape our own hotel keepers’ duties.
In regard to security, a hotel keeper must exercise reasonable care to protect guests or tenants, while on the premises, against injury at the hands of third persons who are not employees of the hotel and is required to take reasonable protective measures, including providing adequate security, to protect guests or tenants against third-party criminal acts. The prospect of criminal activity must be forseeable, of course. Hence, a small B & B in rural Vermont may not have to have to provide anything more than a lock on a guest’s bedroom door, whereas a hotel in midtown Manhattan might additionally have to have security guards and a camera system in hallways to bedrooms and inside elevators in order to provide guests with adequate security.
In addition, when a guest is the victim of crime at a hotel, it is not necessary to show that the past criminal activity relied upon to establish liability occurred at the exact location where the guest was harmed, or that it was the same type of criminal conduct to which the guest was subjected. Numerous New York courts have found that evidence of prior but different (and less serious) criminal activity was sufficient to create a triable question as to whether a subsequent assault upon a hotel guest or tenant was forseeable. Proving the foreseeability of criminal activity and the adequacy of a hotel’s security system often requires expert testimony.
Cases for personal injuries arising out of criminal activity at hotels involve somewhat different standards and proof than those relating to criminal activity elsewhere. If you or someone close to you is the victim of a crime at a hotel and are investigating whether to bring an action against the hotel, make sure to consult with attorneys familiar with this area of the law, such as the attorneys at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson.