“I’m sorry. We can’t tell you that”. Those seven words might have prevented TV personality Erin Andrews from the humiliation of nude videos going viral online.
Andrews, for anyone living under a rock, was the TV personality who gained fame and fortune when the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University failed to use those words, or common sense, when Michael David Barrett asked what room the celebrity was occupying.
The hotel failed to keep Andrews safe and has paid dearly.
But the videotaping, and subsequent lawsuit, has gotten others to thinking about the level of security hotels are required to have and what is a hotel’s obligation to its guest’s safety.
With the public fuss about “air travelers” rights, it is easy to overlook the fact that travelers face problems in places other than airlines.
Many travelers are wondering “What are my rights in a hotel?”
The short answer: There are no national standards, but a traveler does have the normal rights under general contract and tort law. Most states have “innkeepers” regulations that relate.
Legislation and Regulation
There are no federal hotel requirements, for hotels, as there are consumer protections on airlines. Also, there aren’t any federal consumer protection standards. Governing law is a mixture of general contract and tort law — and even some of that goes back to English Common Law and innkeeper rules.
The federal government has limited involvement in the relationships between hotels and guests.
Title 42 of the US Code makes prohibited discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applicable to any inn, hotel or motel.
Hotels are required to meet the mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Hotel Fire Safety Act of 1990 imposes additional safety requirements upon hotels above and beyond what is found in local building codes.
New York, like most states, defers to the federal guidelines. New York General Business Law #202 lays out some of the slight differences between state and federal regulations.
Hotels are responsible for providing adequate standards of guest safety. In “legal terms”, that means a duty of care standard which translates into making sure doors are secure and monitored where appropriate.
The hotel is also required to keep the room number confidential and make sure that all window and door locks work properly.
Most hotels are now using full-time surveillance cameras throughout public areas, but the cameras are not mandated in many regions. If a lodge is in an acknowledged undesirable area, then the hotel administration has a responsibility to tell guests.
The overall idea of inadequate security is the hotel’s management failed to display a security awareness or an understanding. A hotel is in the business of providing a safe living environment for people; however, the hotel’s chief concern is usually protecting property, not people.
Hotels are responsible for damage, loss or theft of personal property in a guestroom. However, most hotels guarantee the safety only if it is left in a hotel’s safe which the hotel must produce to bypass in-room liability.
Although many hotels post “not responsible for loss or damage to personal property” notices, those don’t reduce the hotel’s liability.
Harm or Damage Caused by Third Persons
Here’s the caveat which tripped up the hotel in Andrew’s case.
Hotels have a duty to exercise reasonable care fo the safety and security of their guests. The hotel must protect both guests and employees from the criminal acts of third parties. A greater burden of protection is placed upon hotels than upon landlords. However, the law varies from state to state. Most states have said that hotels are not liable for third-party crimes unless negligence in reasonably protecting guests from harm.
Today, people are traveling solo like never before. It doesn’t matter if the trip is for business or pleasure, accommodations must be chosen wisely. Hotels do (mostly) provide for their security and tend to do everything they can to keep guests safe.
It’s still up to the traveler to use common sense and take reasonable precautions.