Video of the incident shows the victim pulling up to the hotel’s valet service with her Lexus sport utility vehicle. An attendant begins unloading her belongings and she steps out of the car. Suddenly, a man who was seen in earlier frames looking on nearby approaches. He calmly gets into the car and sits in the driver’s seat. The scene quickly turns chaotic. He violently slams the vehicle into reverse. He knocks over several valets and hotel guests. Plaintiff instinctively reaches out to the door handle, but the suspect jerks forward, forcefully pulling her arm. In all, seven people were struck and four had to be hospitalized – one in critical condition.
Now, plaintiff argues the hotel and valet service knew or should have known this act might occur and done more to prepare for it or at least warn their guests. According to Courtroom View Network, the assailant had attempted to steal at least five other vehicles from this very same valet service, which operates in the South Florida region. One of those attempts occurred at the very same hotel. All of those incidents occurred in the months before this incident.
In this case, the 50-year-old defendant did eventually make it out of the valet service area with the vehicle. However, the vehicle was found abandoned and the suspect was cornered at a local motel less than 12 hours after the incident.
So how is the hotel or the valet service responsible for the carjacker’s actions?
The issue comes down to foreseeability.
Foreseeability involves whether the person who caused the injury – or was in a position to prevent it – should have reasonably foreseen the consequences that would result from his or her conduct. In the case of third party property owners accused of negligent security, courts have since the 1960s taken the stance that while the property owner may not have known a particular suspect would carry out a particular action, the incident was foreseeable due to recent similar incidents in the same location or nearby. There is a focus on what the relationship was between either the criminal and the defendant or the victim and the defendant.
The legal duty owed to an injured party is summarized in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, Section 344. The invitor who opens the property to the public or for business is subject to liability if an invitee on the premises is physically harmed by a third person because the invitor failed to exercise reasonable care to:
- Learn that such acts were being done or were likely to be done;
- Provide an adequate warning to let visitors know about the danger or otherwise protect them.
Foreseeability is considered in light of all the circumstances.
In this case, plaintiff alleges that despite the carjacker’s previous attempts at stealing cars in just this way, neither the hotel nor the valet service tried to do anything to alter their operation to make it safer, nor did they warn guests about it.
Plaintiff is seeking compensation to cover her medical costs for elbow surgery and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Battle set for possible punitives claim against luxury hotel in suit over carjacking, June 10, 2016, By Arlin Crisco, CVN
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