Tipsy hotel guests, forceful security
A female advertising executive by the name of Anna and her boyfriend, Aaron, were entertaining a client and Anna’s sister Beth at a Dallas resort.
They had been drinking from 3:00 to 7:00, at which point they decided to go from the bar area to the restaurant. As they visibly stumbled out of the bar, the client saw a large, wooden banister and thought it would be wonderful to slide down the banister. He sat on the banister, and down the banister he went, thoroughly enjoying his great two-story slide down the banister.
Anna, too, thought this was absolutely marvelous, so, in her very, very short linen and silk skirt, she sat on the banister and started down the banister at a great rate of speed. About halfway down she flew off the banister.
Unfortunately, she went off the banister not towards the steps, but into abyss on the other side. She fell 10 or 15 feet and landed in a decorative area populated by some clay pots. Aaron, Beth, and the client quickly ran down and pulled her out. She was terribly embarrassed, and fortunately, other than a deep gash in the leg and a very fat lip, she seemed to be OK.
They quickly left the crime scene and went to Aaron and Anna’s room. Aaron went to fetch some ice cubes, arriving back just as the phone rang: It was security, and they wanted to know what had happened, why there was damage, and how it had been caused. Aaron told them to mind their own business. He hung up the phone and prepared an ice pack for Anna’s face, opining that he thought there were probably going to be some problems, at about which time the security guards came pounding on the door demanding to see Anna. Anna excused herself and said it would be some time before she could come to the door because she was in the bathroom. The security guard said, “Well that’s fine: We just wanted to make sure she was OK.” She assured them that she was indeed OK. As Anna recalled, there was a quiet discussion among the security guards out in the hallway, and then the security guards said, “Well, we still want to come in and talk to you.” At this point in time Anna and Aaron realized that there was a real problem.
The problem was that they wanted no report to be filed, and no mention of this event to occur, either to Anna’s employer or to her husband. You see, Aaron was the boyfriend, not her husband, and any report could get back to her husband. At this point in time Anna and Aaron made the decision to escape. Aaron opened the door and walked out, closing the door behind him He told the security guards “Gentlemen, if you will please excuse me, I must go look for her earring.”
He wandered out to the parking lot, gave the valet $50.00 and said, “Get me my car, quick!” Meanwhile, back in their room, Anna had packed everything up into their overnight bags, thrown them out the second story window of the hotel, had slipped out onto the balcony, and had begun shimmying down the downspout. Just as she was almost down – literally within two feet of the ground – the downspout tore loose, taking a spectacular 30 foot section of downspout, along with a piece of gutter, crashing down into a common area. Thinking quickly, Anna decided it would be a good time to grab her bags and scoot to see if she could find Aaron. Just then Aaron drove around the corner, picked up Anna up and the two fugitives were off.”
Anna called back to the hotel and asked for Beth’s room. As Beth picked up the phone and said hello, a voice cut in and said, “This is security, is this Anna?” She hung up. The next day at work, nursing two stitches in her leg and quite a fat lip, she received a call from a police officer with the Grapevine police (this being the jurisdiction where the resort was located).
The police had taken a formal report from the hotel for criminal damage that was done to the hotel. What she feared could happen had happened. Thinking more quickly, being quite sober, Anna very said, “I think you need to speak to my attorney.”
Anna and Aaron themselves then spoke to an attorney, who called the police officer and said, “If you wish to take a report, that is just fine. In the meantime we’ll use any damages that they claim as part of an offset against the suit against the hotel.” The hotel had knowingly served Anna and Aaron and Beth and the client way too much alcohol. It was estimated that Anna herself had consumed six large glasses of scotch on the rocks, in addition to a beer slightly earlier than that. No food was served. The case was very clearly negligence on the part of the hotel for serving too much liquor. To this he added the attractive nuisance of a banister, plus failure to take safety precautions in case someone were to slide off the banister, plus the breach of privacy for cutting into the phone call between Anna and her sister, Beth.
Sum total, the damages the hotel and the hotel insurance carrier had to pay were in the neighborhood of $395,000, settled out of court. This included a $3,000.00 offset for damages done to the hotel, of which $2,400.00 of the damages had to do with the reattaching the downspout that had been spread across the common area.
We asked Anna and Aaron why they sued the hotel after they left the hotel. They said that it was pretty simple: They had no choice.
While Anna and Aaron were aware that the hotel might have some theoretical liability for the incidents surrounding the banister and the drywall, all they wanted was to preserve their privacy. They said that all of this could have been handled quite easily: The hotel should have sent a concierge or assistant manager to inquire if there was anything he could do to help, and to inquire about what to do regarding the damage caused to the plants in the little area where Anna fell. Anna said that they would have more than happily paid right on the spot out of their pocket.
Instead, the strong-arm security tactics of a group of big, muscle-bound, shaved-head security guys literally pounding on the door and shaking the wall forced them (admittedly using logic springing from drink) into a defensive posture, and from the defensive posture into flight. Hence, by the time what they tried to avoid had occurred, they had obtained counsel and gone on the offensive.
Was the hotel entirely in the wrong? Clearly not. Should they have handled the incident differently? Clearly yes.