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Guest at Four Seasons Hotel injured by shattering glass bathroom door

Guest at Four Seasons Hotel injured by shattering glass bathroom door

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In this week’s article, we examine the case of Parker v. Four Seasons Hotels, Limited, 845 F. 3d 807 (7th Cir. 2017) in which “Diane Parker was injured when a sliding glass door in the bathroom of her Four Seasons Hotel room shattered. The hotel admitted negligence and a jury awarded Parker $20,000 in compensatory damages, which was reduced to $12,000 after a motion for set-off was granted. The district court declined Parker’s request to put the question of punitive damages to the jury, finding her evidence insufficient as a matter of law. We reverse and remand for further proceedings on the question of punitive damages”. See our earlier article on shattering vacation experiences: Dickerson, Shattered Vacations: When tourists are injured by shattering glass doors and windows, ETN Global Travel Industry News (11/26/2014).

Hotel Workers: Hidden Victims

In For Hotel Workers, Weinstein Allegations Put a Spotlight on Harassment, nytimes (12/17/2017) it was noted that “At a high-walled hotel here with celebrity customers, a housekeeper was turning down the sheets for a VIP guest one evening when she said the guest offered her money for a massage. She refused and told a supervisor. Still, the next day, she said she returned to clean the same suite, where she found an open briefcase with cash inside…The hotel, the Peninsula Beverly Hills, has attracted attention beyond its usual circle of well-heeled patrons since several actresses, including Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow, accused Harvey Weinstein of using the cover of work meetings there to sexually harass them. For employees of the Peninsula and other hotels, those allegations point to the mistreatment women endure alone in suites all the time. There is no evidence Mr. Weinstein abused hotel workers. But employees say hotels too often put discretion and deference to powerful customers before the well-being of women who work there, a claim that is catching hold in an industry under mounting pressure to protect workers”.

Puerto Rico Hurricane Deaths

In Mazzei, Puerto Rico Orders Review and Recount of Hurricane Deaths, nytimes (12/18/2017) it was noted that “Facing mounting evidence that Puerto Rico has vastly undercounted the number of people who died because of Hurricane Maria, Gov. Ricardo A. Rossello ordered on Monday that every death on the island since the calamitous storm be reviewed. Officials will look again at all deaths attributed to natural causes…The prolonged blackout hampered critical medical treatment for some of the island’s most vulnerable patients including many who were bedridden or dependent on dialysis or respirators”.

Power Failure Atlanta Airport

In Barnes & Fortin, Power Failure at Atlanta Airport Snarls Air Traffic Nationwide, nytimes (12/17/2017) it was noted that “A power failure at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday disrupted operations at the busiest airport in the world, forcing the cancellation of more than 1,150 departing and arriving flights and stranding travelers on planes on the tarmac for hours, the authorities and passengers said. The power failure at the airport, a major hub for domestic and international flights, sent a ripple of disruptions across the country, affecting flights in Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere”.

Amtrak Train Derailment

In Chosshi, Amtrak Train Derailment Leaves Multiple People Dead in Washington State, nytimes (12/18/2017) it was noted that “Multiple people were killed after an Amtrak train they were traveling on derailed in Washington State on Monday morning, according to local authorities. At least one car was left dangling over a highway from an overpass with another flipped upside down on the road below…Cars and trucks on the highway were struck by the train, but the fatalities were limited to those aboard the train…The train, No. 501, was carrying about 78 passengers and five crew members”.

Train Travel Risky In India

In Train travel riskier as crime jumps by 34%, travelwirenews(12/10/2017) it was noted that “Travelling by trains is getting riskier by the day as crimes under Indian Penal Code (IPC) witnessed an increase of over 34% in two years, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report for 2016. Incidence of IPC crimes, which include murder, rape, rioting, kidnapping and robbery among others registered by Government Railway Police (GRP) in 2016 was 42,388 in comparison with 39,239 in 2015 and 31,609 in 2014″.

Uber To Settle Rape Case

In Wattles, Uber moves to settle rape victim’s lawsuit, money.cnn (12/9/2017) it was noted that Uber has agreed to settle with a woman who sued the company for the way it behaved after she was raped by an Uber driver in India. She claims executives there obtained her private medical records following the 2014 rape. In addition to claiming invasion of privacy, Jane Doe alleges Uber executives defamed her by suggesting her rape may be an attempt to sabotage Uber orchestrated by its Indian competitor, Ola…The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed”.

Airline Food Quality

In Airline food quality: Delta healthiest and Hawaiian Airlines worst in the United States, travelwirenews (12/10/2017) it was noted that “Delta is the clear leader among the major carriers and s tied with Virgin America this year as the healthiest airline. The worst airline food when it comes to health in on Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines”.

Battle Of The Super Trains

In Zaleski, Promoters are touting two different multi-billion-dollar high-speed projects between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Is it a fantasy, or a game changer?, msn (12/16/2017) it was noted that “A private company called Baltimore Washington Rapid-Rail unveiled three potential routes that the firm would like to use to build a magnetic-levitation train line. BWRR is all-in on importing Japan’s superconducting maglev technology to create a 300-mph supertrain that it says could shorten the trip between the two cities to just 15 minutes. The estimated price tag? 10 billion…(The second proposal of from Elon Musk is to dig) two, 35-mile-long tunnels between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., into which he could install a hyperloop-the super-ultra-light conveyance that could blast passengers in pressurized capsules in a near-vacuum at more than 600 mph”, Stay tuned.

No Temple Mooning, Please

In Temple-mooning California duo released, blacklisted, travelwirenews (12/10/2017) it was noted that “One of the first acts by the disrespectful Americans after being told charges were being withdrawn was to re-start the Instagram account that landed them in trouble. Apparently unrepentant the same sex California couple who flashed their buttocks at two temples and posted the photos online have been kicked out of Thailand”.

Champaign Tantrum Costs E5,000

In Woman’s midair champagne tantrum forces emergency landing, travelwirenews (12/10/2017) it was noted that “A passenger plane bound for Zurich had to make an unexpected stop in Stuttgart, after a female passenger popped when staff refused to serve her champagne. Police said the 44-year old Swiss woman, who was flying first class from Moscow, asked to be poured the sparkling wine several times and was denied. She finally snapped and started pacing up and down the aircraft before dragging a crew member by the wrist. To avoid he situation from spilling over, the pilot decided to make an emergency stop at Stuttgart Airport, where police escorted the woman off the plane and ordered her to pay E5,000 ($5,871) fine. The thirsty flier may also face paying tens of thousands of in costs resulting from the unexpected stopover”. nytimes

Storm Kai-Tak Kills 30

In Tropical Storm Kills 30, and Nearly 90,000 flee to Shelters in Philippines, nytimes (12/17/2017) it was noted that “More than 30 people were killed, and many others were missing after a slow-moving tropical storm spurred floods and landslides in the central Philippines, officials said on Sunday. Thousands of Christmas holiday travelers were stranded, and 89,000 people were forced to flee to emergency shelters because of tropical storm Kai-Tak”.

Failure To Reveal Saudi Rules

In Court raps firm for issuing tickets without stating Saudi travel rules, travelwirenews (12/10/2017) it was noted that “Bengaluru: A city consumer forum has pulled up online travel company MakeMyTrip and Oman Air for failing to inform a mother and daughter that women can’t travel to Saudi Arabia without a male companion, while booking their tickets to the west Asian nation…Holding the firm and airline guilty of unfair trade practices and deficiency in service, the forum ordered them to refund the extra fare the women had to shell out for their rescheduled journey and pay Rs5,000 as compensation for causing mental agony to the travelers”. See Dickerson, Travel Law, Law Journal Press, Sections 5.05-5.05 (2017) on the duties and obligations of tour operators and travel agents to convey needed information about the destination country to travelers.

Travel Law Case Of The Week

In the Parker case the Court noted that: We turn to the facts, which we will simplify to focus on the issue at hand. Parker and her sister, Cindy Schiavon, checked into the Four Seasons on April 27, 2007, requesting adjoining rooms. After a short delay at the desk, Parker was assigned to room 3627 and her sister was given the room next door. In Parker’s room, a sliding glass door separated the shower area from the vanity area. On the day after check-in, Parker took a shower and attempted to exit the shower area by opening the glass door. As she slid the door, it exploded suddenly, raining shards of glass onto her naked body and causing her injuries. Parker’s sister summoned help from the front desk”.

Overhead Track Stoppers

Shortly thereafter, Joseph Gartin, an engineer employed by the hotel, arrived to investigate the incident. According to Schiavon’s affidavit, Gartin: immediately looked up at the overhead track and said, ‘Looks like the stopper moved again’…He explained that the hotel had recently undergone renovations and that a ‘bunch’ of the newly installed sliding glass doors had exploded because the overhead track stoppers were not working properly. That allowed the door-handles to crash into the walls and cause the glass doors to explode. This was one of the rooms on the ‘do not sell’ list. You might want to check yours. Taking Gartin’s advice, Schiavon checked the sliding door in her bathroom in the adjoining room and determined that it suffered from the same defect”.

Prior Shattering Incident

“Parker also uncovered evidence suggesting that the sliding door in her room had shattered before the incident that caused her injury. And that the door had been replaced. An October 2007 email between third party contractors working on door breakage issues revealed that several rooms configured in the same manner as Parker’s room had similar issues:

The Email

‘Bob- Here is an update from Contract Mirror & Supply on the shower doors at the Four Seasons. CMS installed 150 tub doors, 136 shower doors and 136 sliding barn doors during the renovation. We have had one shower door break (room 4401) and five sliding glass doors break (rooms 3427, 3527 twice, and 4419). The cause of the shower door breakage was identified, and all of the shower doors were inspected to be sure that there were no additional problems. Since the X27 rooms represent 80% of the barn door failures these rooms were examined to identify was different in these rooms that may have caused the problems. The thicker wall construction in this room leaves less clearance for the door…and the tight tolerance may contribute to the breakage because the door may deflect up to ½” if someone pulls on the door while operating it which would allow the corner of the glass to hit the stone. CMS has been working…to add corner protection to the glass to protect the corners in the event of impact and CMS is also researching a continuous bottom guide that was suggested by the hotel”.

Hotel Concedes Negligence

“The hotel conceded negligence and so the only issue for trial was damages, But Four Seasons moved to block Parked from raising the issue of punitive damages before the jury, contending that her evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to present that claim to the jury. The district court agreed, and after trial, Parker recovered $20,000 in compensatory damages which was reduced to $12,000 after set-off. Parker appeals”.

Duties Of Property Owners

“Under Illinois law, property owners owe to their invitees a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition…In A premises liability action, a plaintiff has the burden of proving: (1) the existence of a condition that presents an unreasonable risk of harm to persons on the premises; (2) that the defendants knew, or should have known, that the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm; (3) that the defendants should have anticipated that individuals on the premises would fail to discover or recognize the danger or otherwise fail to protect themselves against it; (4) a negligent act or omission on the part of the defendants; (5) an injury suffered by the plaintiffs and (6) that the condition of the property was the proximate cause of the injury to the plaintiff”.

Punitive Damages

“Under Illinois law, ‘punitive or exemplary damages may be awarded when torts are committed with fraud, actual malice, deliberate violence or oppression, or when the defendant acts willfully, or with such gross negligence as to indicate a wanton disregard of the rights of others’…Although Parker contends that the hotel committed fraud when it failed to warn at check-in time that her room contained a hazardous condition, like the district court we conclude that Parker has presented no evidence of fraud or intent to deliberately harm her”.

Gross Negligence

“Instead the question is whether the hotel’s conduct was so grossly negligent ‘as to indicate a wanton disregard of the rights of others’…Punitive damages serve to punish the offender and to deter that party and others from engaging in similar acts of wrongdoing in the future. Illinois courts distinguish negligence from willful and wanton conduct…One court described willful and wanton conduct as ‘a hybrid between acts considered to be negligent and intentional acts’…Negligence that does not justify punitive damages includes ‘mere inadvertence, mistake, errors of judgment and the like’…But punitive damages may be awarded in cases involving ‘reckless indifference to the rights of others’ or conduct that approaches the degree of moral blame attached to intentional harm, where a defendant inflicts a highly unreasonable risk of harm on another in conscious disregard of that risk”.

Evidence Of Willful & Wanton Conduct

“With those standards in mind, we turn to Parker’s evidence of willful and wanton conduct here. The affidavit of Schiavon and the email from the contractor working on the door issues were Parker’s best evidence that the hotel knew there was a serious problem with the sliding doors at the time the room was rented to Parker. Parker had the admission of the hotel’s engineer that the stopper had moved ‘again’, that a ‘bunch’ of the newly installed sliding doors had exploded because of the overhead track stoppers were not working properly, that the doors were crashing into the walls and exploding and that rooms affected by the problem had been placed on a ‘do not sell’ list…She also had the email suggesting that several doors had broken in a similar manner and that the glass door in her very room had previously exploded and been replaced”.

Conclusion

“Construing this evidence in Parker’s favor, it would be fair to infer that the Four Seasons knew that there was a problem and the glass doors generally, that the door in Parker’s room had previously shattered and that there was a problem with the stopper that allowed the door handle to come into contact with the wall, resulting in the shattering of the glass door. It would also be fair to infer that the hotel knew that the problem had not been fixed as of the time that Parker checked into the room, and that the room had been taken out of service for that very reason and placed on a ‘do not sell’ list. Yet the hotel rented the room anyway…Injury is more than reasonably foreseeable when a hotel installs in a shower area a glass door that is prone to exploding in regular use….[W]e conclude that Parker has the right to present her punitive damages claim to the jury. We therefore remand the case for further proceedings on the question of punitive damages”.

tom dickerson

The author, Thomas A. Dickerson, is a retired Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department of the New York State Supreme Court and has been writing about Travel Law for 41 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016), Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016) and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at nycourts.gov/courts/9jd/taxcertatd.shtml. For additional travel law news and developments, especially, in the member states of the EU see IFTTA.org

This article may not be reproduced without the permission of Thomas A. Dickerson.

Read many of Justice Dickerson’s articles here.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.

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