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Can a California hotel be responsible for violent crimes on its premises?


When someone violently assaults someone else in Temeculah, they get arrested, charged with a crime, and hopefully convicted. If the victim was injured, they could also pursue a personal injury lawsuit against their attacker.

Now say this incident did not happen on the street, but in a local hotel. When you are a guest at a hotel, or just eating at its restaurant, the hotel owes you a legal duty to take reasonable steps to keep its premises safe. That includes the usual things like keeping the floors dry and the stairways and elevators in good repair. But it also includes keeping guests safe from violence. Even if the hotel is not directly responsible for an assault — i.e., it was not an employee who did it — it can still be liable in a lawsuit for negligently failing to provide sufficient security.

The following case took place outside of California, but is a good example of a negligent security lawsuit against a hotel. In 2017, a man was killed and another his friend was seriously injured in a fistfight against a third man outside a hotel. The family of the deceased man later sued the hotel for allegedly allowing the deadly fight to happen, and the case recently went to trial.

Incident at hotel bar turns deadly

According to testimony from the man who threw the fatal punch, he and the men first encountered each other at the hotel’s bar. The two men were there with two others, and as the first man walked toward the bathroom, someone from the group grabbed his groin. He twisted the arm away and pushed the assailant and someone from the group pushed him to the floor.

Staff from the hotel threw out the group of four, as well as the man whose crotch had been grabbed. The staff directed the two sides to leave using separate exits, but kicked them out at the same time. Having forgotten his car keys, the man returned to the bar, then exited through the same door the group of four had used.

Two of the men were still nearby. They began “verbally assaulting” the man, who punched each of them in response. He was later convicted and spent 18 months in prison. In his testimony at the present trial, the man said he believes the hotel overserved alcohol to the men, and that the way hotel staff handled the situation caused him to get “wrapped up” in the fatal fight.

Hotel accused of being unable to defuse tensions

An expert witness similarly said that the hotel bore a lot of responsibility for the man’s death. As a former police officer, he testified that the hotel failed to train its staff to de-escalate situations like the one that happened.

You deserve to feel safe whenever you stay at a hotel. When a hotel breaks that trust with you, serious injury can result.