Premises liability claims are notoriously difficult to prove in most instances. There are complicated issues of notice and liability that must be addressed. Since many defendants are corporate entites, they find it more cost-effective to zealously defend themselves against most injury claims that occur on their property.
This was not the case in a recent verdict awarded by an Orange County jury against Hilton Embassy Suites, Interstate Management Company and SecurAmerica who were ordered to pay $1.7M to a hotel guest who was robbed and shot multiple times in the hotel’s parking lot in Orlando. The case is Troy Anderson v. Hilton Hotels, et al. Mr. Anderson was represented by Orlando trial lawyers, Simon Wiseman, Esq. of the Wiseman Law Firm and Riley Allen, Esq. of Riley Allen Law.
Many premises liability cases are decided on issues of notice despite the presence of a hazardous condition. In this case, Simon Wiseman and Riley Allen provided compelling evidence that the defendants were aware of the lack of sufficient lighting in the parking lot, that its security guards failed to provide even a minimum of security, and that a similar robbery and shooting had taken place in the hotel parking lot just 10 days before this incident.
Evidence of the previous robbery was presented by a deputy sheriff who testified she arrived on the scene with lights and sirens, was on the property for one hour investigating, and issued an incident report. The Hotel and security company denied any knowledge of the robbery, denied having any reports of the armed robbery despite established protocol, and even claimed the victimized hotel guest had not informed any hotel personnel of the incident. The guest passed away after the armed robbery.
Since the incident report and any other reports were allegedly unavailable or apparently destroyed, a crucial jury instruction allowed the jury to infer that the report would have demonstrated notice of the previous robbery.
Other evidence brought out by attorneys Riley Allen and Simon Wiseman showed that floodlights in the parking area had been burned out for months and that a former employee testified that the hotel would wait until most lights were burned out before acting to replace them. Despite testimony from guests that the area was blacked out that night, the hotel manager testified the lights were in perfect working order.
The security company also failed to provide security to guests. A contract between the company and Hilton Embassy Suites apparently obligated security guards to attend to guest needs such as bedding, linens, and bell carts. On the night of the armed robbery and shooting, a security guard was only present patrolling the exterior of the building for between 12 and 15 minutes over a 3 hour and 15 minute time period before the armed robbery and shooting. In fact, the security guard spent almost twice as much time before the armed robbery and shooting responding to housekeeping errands for the hotel instead of patrolling the exterior of the hotel.
Lastly, a former Operations Manager and a Quality Assurance Supervisor had previously brought security concerns to hotel and security representatives without apparent effect.
Undoubtedly, the jury was impressed by the substantial evidence regarding prior notice of security concerns, the failures of any security personnel at or near the scene, and the inexcusable act of not providing sufficient lighting that combined to create a hazardous and inviting condition for criminal activities that posed a foreseeable danger to hotel guests.
Also, the failure of hotel and security company officials to acknowledge obvious failures in security and their assertions that they were unaware of a dangerous condition in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence apparently did not sit well with the jurors.
The Wiseman Law Firm is dedicated to the rights of injured claimants in a wide variety of personal injury cases. The $1.7 million verdict in the Anderson case was evidence of the dedication, perseverance and “never say die” attitude that personifies The Wiseman Law Firm.