Summon law enforcement for crimes

A recent legal case contains good reminders about serving alcohol responsibly, and summoning police when criminal activity occurs. 

The plaintiff was the victim of a sexual assault at a hotel (the defendant). On the first night of her planned trip, she went to the hotel lobby bar, where she met a male stranger. Four and a half hours later, she left the bar with him. Per hotel surveillance video, she was having difficulty walking and standing. The man led her to his room, where she was sexually assaulted and beaten.

In response to a call in the early hours, security personnel found her in a hallway naked, incapacitated and very disoriented. She had a black eye and a severe facial laceration. Security escorted her to her hotel room. Later that morning, the hotel staff was sufficiently concerned to conduct a “well-check” on her condition. At no point did the hotel staff summon the police, request medical assistance or take photographs of the plaintiff’s injuries. The hotel did not look through the trash in either the assailant’s room or the plaintiff’s, nor did the hotel preserve physical evidence from the attacker’s room such as soiled sheets and towels, drugs or drug residue. Further, since police were not immediately contacted, toxicological and DNA evidence was not collected.

The plaintiff returned to her hometown later that same day, called her local rape crisis hotline and met with advocates and nurses the next day. The following week, the plaintiff reported the assault to the police in the hotel’s vicinity and obtained a protective order against the assailant. Despite significant legal efforts to hold her assaulter criminally liable, he could not be prosecuted due to lack of evidence. The plaintiff sued the hotel for failure to preserve evidence. In addition, she sued for the hotel’s “failure to refuse to serve her alcohol” while she was intoxicated, and failure to summon medical assistance and law enforcement.

The hotel sought to have the case dismissed. The court denied the request, so either the parties will reach a settlement or the case will proceed to trial. The main lessons are twofold: When dealing with a guest who has been the victim of a crime on your premises, summon the police. They will do what is necessary to find and preserve evidence, thereby relieving the hotel from that responsibility. Second, frequently reinforce training for alcohol servers to cut off a guest who is visibly intoxicated. It's in everyone's best interest.