11 August 2015, Not terrorism, but a possible legal precedent for hotel safety and security liability (including terrorism)

22 August, 2015 Legal

CBS Boston reported on 11 August that a female rape victim was awarded $6.6 million in damages for an attack that happened on a hotel’s premises in 2009. A jury found that JPA IV Management Co. Inc. – which owned the Radisson Hotel in Boston (since changed names and ownership, see below,) and attached to the 200 Stuart Street parking garage – was negligent in providing adequate security to its patrons. The woman was the second rape victim within 12 days in the parking garage.

The Daily Report says the victim’s legal team, Keenan Law Firm in Atlanta, successfully argued JPA IV Management, a) did not adequately increase security after the first rape, and that b) both of the hotel’s security guards were in the hotel at the time of the attack, which left the parking garage vulnerable.

CBS reported that the court did not find the managers of the garage liable.

Some of the legal arguments during the case were:

– Hotel owners (paraphrased, not exact quote): “We intensified security after the initial rape, and we had never had this kind of assault before in 38 years…”

– Keenan Law Firm response (paraphrased, not exact quote): “Before 9-11, there had never been a terror attack where aircraft were flown into New York City…but that triggered high security to deal with the threat…”

– Keenan Law Firm also noted that the Radisson had cut security guard staff from four to two, and that the management company decided not to put security cameras on every garage level, but that it did have cameras watching garage clerks to prevent internal financial theft. These issues, argued the law firm, additionally demonstrated negligence.

As an aside, in 2010, Northwood Hospitality out of New York bought the Radisson and transformed it into the Revere Hotel via a $27 million renovation, reports the The Boston Globe. It is now an independent luxury hotel with rates between more than $200-$600 a night.

This case represents a growing trend where hotels and property management companies are increasingly being held responsible for assaults, terror attacks, and other such happenings. The main argument appears to be that property managers are liable for the safety of their patrons, especially when there are indicators, warnings, and other demonstrations of dangers. Some countries, mainly in Europe, categorize this kind of responsibility as “Duty of Care.”

Marriott is currently being sued by the widow of a man who was killed in the 2008 Islamabad Marriott attack, there are similar lawsuits regarding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that included the Taj Mahal massacre, and it is highly probable that lawsuits will emerge from the June 2015 terror attack on the Hotel Riu Marhaba Imperial in Sousse, Tunisia.

In this Boston case, not increasing security in the garage where a rape had just occurred was a major mistake, so said the court. Had security been increased in the garage, the rape might have been prevented. Adequate CCTV coverage might also have helped prevent or halt this attack.

Hotels and property managers can use examples of past attacks to identify weak points and danger areas on their properties and then seek to mitigate them to a reasonable degree. The fact that there had been a rape in the garage should have caused hotel security to patrol this section of the property. The answer to this problem was not to simply post more security guards in the hotel lobby. This is a basic security procedure where intelligence – which in layman’s terms is “analyzed threat data” – is fed into security planning and execution to make security more effective. Without intelligence, security is much less effective, as the Boston Radisson case demonstrates.

Sources and further reading:

Atlanta Lawyer Wins $6.6M Verdict in Boston Rape Case,” The Daily Report, 17 August 2015.

Jury Awards $6.6 Million To Woman Raped In Boston Hotel Parking Garage,” CBS Boston, 11 August 2015.

A major shift for old Radisson,” The Boston Globe, 15 February 2012.

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