A woman was assaulted and robbed just outside a downtown Memphis hotel, raising questions about the security measures in place.
The Memphis Police Department states that the woman, whose name was not released, that an unknown assailant struck her violently in the head before grabbing her purse. She reported money, a handgun, and jewelry to be among the items stolen. According to the woman, the man fled the scene in a white vehicle, which may have been driven by an accomplice.
The suspect and any accomplices are still at large.
A hotel owner, and all other landlords, have a duty to keep their property safe for the people who use it, regardless of the purpose for their presence. The duty is highest in the case of a business invitee, or a person who is on the premises for a commercial purpose, such as a shopper or job applicant, or paid money to use the premises, like a hunter at a deer lease or a guest at a hotel.
In these situations, the landowner has an affirmative duty to inspect the premises and ensure that they are in a safe condition. This duty applies to conditions that the landowner either knows about or reasonably should have known about.
Sometimes, there is evidence of actual knowledge, like a memo that mentions an unsafe staircase. Other times, constructive knowledge must be established through circumstantial evidence, and a landmark tort case, that would be amusing if the result was not so serious, offers some guidance in this matter.
In Anjou v. Boston Elevated Railway Company, Helen Anjou slipped on a banana peel at the busy Dudley Street terminal in Boston. According to evidence presented at trial, the offending peel was “’flattened down, and black in color,’” as if it had been on the floor for quite some time.
The appeals court held that the peel’s color and condition strongly indicated that it had been on the floor for quite some time, in violation of the landowner’s duty of care. The case suggests the following analysis:
- Yellow Peel: The defect is new, and the landowner could not have reasonably known of its existence.
- Black Peel: A rotten banana peel indicates that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
- Brown Peel: Additional evidence is needed to determine how long the condition had existed without being remedied.
The plaintiff has the burden of proof to show that the defendant breached the duty of care, and that breach caused injury.
Specifically in terms of security at a hotel, apartment complex, or other commercial location, there are recognized standards as to what constitutes reasonable care to keep the premises safe. These items include:
- Adequate lighting;
- Written notices that travelling alone after dark is not recommended; and
- An on-demand courtesy patrol or on-premises security guard, depending on the circumstances.
Noncompliance with these standards is evidence of negligence.
Landowners must take steps to ensure that their business invitees are not exposed to danger. If you or your family suffered injury due to landowner negligence, contact an aggressive Memphis personal injury attorney for a free consultation. After hours and hospital visits are generally available.