New York City serves an estimated 54 million tourists annually, with the state having one of the highest hotel occupancy rates in the country. In fact, the city has seen a nearly 24 percent uptick in tourism since 2009.
This generates significant revenue for property owners and managers in the city. With that benefit comes high expectations.
Tourists expect hotel owners and managers will maintain the site in a reasonably safe condition for guests. That means the buildings meet applicable code standards and the property is free of any latent hazards known to the owner but not obviously apparent to visitors.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and serious injury can sometimes result.
One tragic case of injury at a hotel was recently weighed before the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One. Although Lawrence v. La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club is an out-of-state case, the same general premises liability law remains relevant for those in our city.
As our New York City injury lawyers understand it, the case was filed by the parents of a 5-year-old boy who suffered severe and permanent brain injuries as a result of a fall from a second-story window at a hotel where the family was vacationing.
Plaintiffs were visiting the hotel to celebrate the sixth birthdays of the boy’s older twin brothers. His mother requested a room on the first floor when the family booked the reservation, but when they arrived, only a second-story room was available.
On the morning of the incident, mother opened the window because she wanted to hear the ocean. The boys were playing, eating and coloring in the living quarters. In a matter of moments, they realized their younger son was not in sight. He had reportedly fallen out of the window onto the concrete pavement below and suffered serious head and brain injuries. The window’s screen had popped out and he fell to the ground. The bottom of the window was approximately 25 inches off the floor.
Trial court granted summary motion in favor of defendants, who asserted the parents were careless and failed to use precautions to prevent the fall. Defendants also asserted they were not negligent, the window applied with all applicable building codes, the screen through which child fell was not a “safety device” and plaintiffs were not guaranteed a floor-level room.
Plaintiffs countered the window’s compliance with building codes did not necessarily establish defendants were not negligent. A former supervisor at the hotel testified bars had been placed on some – though not all – hotel windows on the higher floors because the screens provided no safety resistance. They also noted an average of 18 children under 10 die each year from window falls, prompting the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to request the American Society for Testing Materials to develop certain standards for devices that would keep children from falling out of windows. An expert witness testified something as simple as installation of a thumb screw or wooden bar within the window track could have prevented this incident.
Appellate court reversed, finding defendants had not met the necessary burden of proof to indicate no triable issues of fact. Specifically, property owners owe a greater duty of care to children who have a known propensity to be heedless of certain perils.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Lawrence v. La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Oct. 31, 2014, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One
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Powers v 31 E 31 LLC – New York Apartment Fall Liability Lawsuit to Proceed, Nov. 8, 2014, New York City Premises Liability Attorney