South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Injury to Hotel Guest Must Be Foreseeable for Hotel to Be Liable in Negligence
Description Appeals court held that a hotel was not liable to a guest who was injured when a light switch sparked. The hotel had no reason to suspect that the switch was defective; so there was no foreseeability of the possible danger to the guest.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Foreseeability; Knowledge; Hotel
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Schmid, a pilot for Lufthansa Airlines, was staying at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. When he flipped the switch on a bathroom light, it sparked, knocking him back into the door frame, causing a shoulder injury, which, he contends prevented him from working any longer as a pilot. Schmid sued Fairmont. The suit claimed that the hotel violated their duty of care to maintain electrical fixtures in a reasonably safe condition. The jury found Fairmont liable. Fairmont appealed.

Reversed. The factors to be considered in determining liability include: 1) the reasonable foreseeability of the injury; 2) the likelihood of the injury; 3) the magnitude of the burden on the defendant of guarding against the injury; and 4) the consequences of placing the burden on the defendant. The innkeeper-guest relationship imposes a duty to exercise ordinary care in protecting guests from injury. That duty is not absolute; when a person has no reason to suspect injury, he is not required to look for it. The defendant must have actual or constructive knowledge of the possibility of the danger involved. The hotel was not liable because it was not objectively reasonable to expect that it could foresee that Schmid would receive a shock from the light switch.

Citation Schmid v. Fairmont Hotel Co., --- N.E.2d --- (2003 WL 23149897, App. Ct., Ill., 2003)

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