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E-Alert Case Updates

United States District Court for the District of Columbia enters summary judgment in favor of a hotel management company in action premised on criminal acts of a third party

Beckwith v. Interstate Mgmt. Co., LLC
No. 14-00214

by Wayne C. Heavener, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

Available at: https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2014cv0214-31

In Beckwith v. Interstate Management Co., LLC, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered summary judgment for a hotel management company that was sued by a patron alleging that the defendant negligently failed to prevent an assault by another patron. The Court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the assault was foreseeable. The Court also held that the plaintiff failed to establish a clearly articulated standard of care owed by the management company, as was required under the law of the District of Columbia. As a result, the Court entered summary judgment for the defendant hotel management company, and against the plaintiff.

Connor Beckwith (“Plaintiff”) was assaulted at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., when Anthony Lopez touched Plaintiff while Plaintiff was walking to the men’s restroom. Lopez followed Plaintiff into the restroom, where Lopez touched Plaintiff again. Plaintiff reported the incident to his parents, and Plaintiff’s father immediately alerted the hotel’s front desk staff. Lopez was arrested shortly thereafter in the hotel restaurant. Plaintiff subsequently filed an action sounding in negligence against Interstate Management Company, LLC (“Defendant”), which served as the management company for the hotel. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was negligent in maintaining security measures and in responding to the assault. Defendant moved for summary judgment, and argued that Plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to establish the elements of a claim based upon negligence. In response, Plaintiff argued that local crime statistics demonstrated that it was foreseeable that an intruder would come on the hotel’s premises.

The Court granted Defendant’s motion, and entered summary judgment against Plaintiff. The Court noted that the tort law of the District of Columbia controlled Plaintiff’s lawsuit. Under D.C. law, the Court held that Plaintiff was required to prove that Lopez’s criminal act was so foreseeable that it became Defendant’s duty to guard against it by adhering to a recognized standard of care. The Court held that Lopez’s assault was not foreseeable. The Court noted that the requisite foreseeability under D.C. law depended upon the plaintiff’s relationship to the defendant. If the plaintiff and defendant were part of a “special relationship,” then the defendant owed the plaintiff a greater duty of protection. The Court determined that Defendant owed Plaintiff a “greater duty of protection” because of the parties’ innkeeper-guest relationship. Nevertheless, the Court held that the assault was not foreseeable. The Court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that crime statistics could meet Plaintiff’s burden in this case. The court also held that, even if the assault was foreseeable, Plaintiff did not establish the requisite standard of care. The Court noted that, under D.C. law, the Plaintiff had a duty to articulate and reference a standard of care by which Defendant’s actions could be measured. The Court noted that Plaintiff proffered the expert testimony of Andre Street, a Baltimore hotel security director, in order to establish a standard of care. The Court found that Mr. Street’s testimony was insufficient to establish a clearly articulated standard of care because Mr. Street provided only vague and “passing references” to “best practices” in the area of hotel security. Because Plaintiff was unable to establish either the foreseeability of the assault, or the duty of care applicable to Defendant, the Court entered summary judgment for Defendant.


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