Protecting Patrons' Property
Risks to Property in the Hotel
  • Hotel Theft
    • industry-wide problem
    • most hotel thieves are professionals seeking jewelry, money, and credit cards
    • they often register as guests of the hotel
  • Keys and Locks
    • traditional keys easily lost and duplicated
    • electronic keys offer much better security
  • Guests' Insurance does not protect hotels
    • often guests' valuables are not insured
    • even when insured, insurance company can sue the hotel for the money paid out
Why is Security Such and Important Issue?
  • The Absolute Liability Rule
    • according to common law  --  innkeepers are liable for any loss of guests' property occurring on the hotel premises
    • this doctrine also called  ==>  infra hospitium  ( "within the inn" )
  • 3 Exceptions to the absolute liability rule
    • not liable if loss was caused by an Act of God
    • not liable if the loss was caused by an act of a Public Enemy
    • if Guest Negligence is the cause of the loss
  • Vermont has adopted the Prima Facie Liability Rule  (only 6 states have done so)
    • innkeepers are only liable for property loss if the loss is due to the innkeeper's negligence
    • legal strategy for the hotel is to show that the loss was not caused by the negligence of the hotel
Limiting Liability Statutes
  • places a ceiling on the hotel's liability even if guilty
  • in order to qualify for limited liability hotels generally must meet the following conditions:
    • provide safes
      • must be a "proper" safe
      • must be available when guests want to deposit their valuables
    • post notices announcing the availability of the safes
      • hotels must strictly comply with the posting requirements
      • notices must be conspicuous  (i.e., a reasonable person would notice it)
      • notices generally must be posted in several locations
    • post notices announcing that the hotel's liability is limited
  • Generally the following property must be deposited in the safe
    • money, jewels, ornaments, precious stones
    • bank notes, bonds, negotiable securities
  • in Vermont
    • ceiling is $300 for personal property
    • exception  ==>  guest provides a statement of value over $300 AND the hotel
    •                           acknowledges the property's value
Limited Liability for Other Property
  • what about property not required to be placed in the safe?
    • most states have statutes that limit liability for these types of property
  • most statutes require...
    • suitable door locks and bolts
    • suitable window fastenings
  • limited liability for loss or damage to property while in a storage area
  • Merchandise Samples
    • generally, innkeepers have no liability for commercial property
    • innkeeper must have written notice of merchandise and acknowledge in writing including value

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this page is maintained by Reed Fisher
last updated January 15, 2011