Child Hotel Injury Lawsuit Will Proceed to Trial

A five-year-old child vacationing with his family suffers a serious fall from a hotel window, causing him to incur critical, debilitating injuries, including brain trauma.
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Who is responsible?

A California appellate court recently granted the family the right to present a case at trial that the hotel was responsible for negligence and failing to address a known dangerous condition on its property. This was a reversal of an earlier trial court summary judgment favoring defendants, who argued they had no duty of care to the child and the accident was caused by parents’ failure to supervise, rather than its own failure to install a fall prevention device on the window.

Whether plaintiffs will succeed in the case of Lawrence v. La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club will depend on whether they can show the hotel had a duty to ensure the windows were safe, whether it breached that duty and whether this breach was a proximate cause of the boy’s injuries.

Our Fort Lauderdale tourist injury lawyers know these types of cases are complex. Just because an injury – even a serious one – is suffered on site doesn’t necessarily make that injury compensable. There will need to be testimony from expert witnesses, attesting to window safety standards, as well as applicable building code standards.

When the trial court took on the issue, it weighed the following factors in deciding for defendant:
–Building code requirements were met.
–The window height was not easily accessible to a child.
–The child’s mother had opened the window (to hear the ocean).
–The parents were nearby but distracted.
–Window was not in a common area over which defendants had control.
–There were no prior incidents of anyone falling out of the window.

The court found based on all this, a child’s fall out the window was not foreseeable, and therefore defendant’s duty of care did not include taking additional measures.

Appellate court reversed, finding defendant’s presentation of evidence not sufficient to garner summary judgment. The court noted the duty of a hotel owner to its guests to keep the property in reasonably safe condition. The duty requires owners to exercise reasonable care, and guests can reasonably expect owner will be diligent in inspecting rooms for defects and correcting them upon discovery.

A hotel maintenance manager testified there had in fact been issues with screens popping out of the windows, which was why bars had been placed on some higher-story windows in the hotel. However, bars were not installed in the window from which this boy fell.

Further, the court stated that when a hotel owner accepts a child as a guest, the inexperience and natural tendencies of a child must be considered when weighing possible dangers on site.

Thus, there was sufficient evidence presented by plaintiff that a reasonable jury could find defendant breached its duty and is therefore liable.

However, it’s worth noting that hotel owners do not assume total responsibility for the child’s safety, the court stated. Particularly with children under age 2.5 years, it’s presumed parents will provide constant supervision and care. Still, property owners must take child safety into account in the course of property maintenance and care.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Lawrence v. La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Oct. 31, 2014, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One
More Blog Entries:
Bufkin v. Felipe’s – Pedestrian Injury Claim Countered by Open Obvious Doctrine, Oct. 20, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Tourist Injury Lawyer Blog