Tourism in Maine has reached an all-time high the last several years, with the Maine Office of Tourism reporting an uptick of 8.8 million annual visitors from 2012 to 2018. These tourists spend billions of dollars, support thousands of businesses and more than 105,000 jobs in the state. Among those businesses supported by travelers: Hotels, motels, resorts and rental properties. These property owners owe a duty of care to those on their property. Our Bangor personal injury attorneys note some of these duties may include the responsibility to provide:
- Adequate security.
- Safe walking surfaces.
- Safe ingress/egress.
- Repair of conditions that might be dangerous (i.e., a broken step, poor lighting, unsafe deck).
- Adequate lighting
Property owners who fail or don’t regularly inspect conditions on-site to ensure they are reasonably safe for guests may be held responsible in court under the theory of premises liability. Although historically the Maine judicial system set standards for duty of care on the basis of guest designation (i.e., invitee, licensee, trespasser), the 1979 Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision in Poulin v. Colby College changed how property liability is determined. In that case, plaintiff sued a college for injuries sustained in a fall on campus. He was considered a “licensee” while the person he was dropping off at the campus was considered an “invitee.” Justices held that, “It no longer makes any sense to predicate a landowner’s duty solely on the status of the injured party as either a licensee or invitee. Perhaps in rural society with sparse land settlements and large estates, it would have been unduly burdensome to obligate an owner to inspect and maintain (the property)…” but such immunity wouldn’t be justified in an industrialized society.
In addition to slip-and-fall claims, another common claim for damages against Maine hotels is inadequate security. The question of what a property owner must do in order to keep guests “reasonably” safe depends largely on what is foreseeable. Some security measures may be applicable to all hotels and motels, such as locks on guest room doors and windows that do not allow entry from the outside. In other cases, courts will look at the history of problems at a given location. For example, if there is a history of violent crime either at the hotel or in the immediate vicinity, an argument could be made the hotel had a duty to hire extra security patrols, install cameras or additional lighting.
A hotel or motel can be liable for injuries inflicted by third parties if the attack was reasonably foreseeable and the property owner failed to take adequate action. It must be deemed the “proximate cause” of the claimant’s injury. That means the action occurs in a natural and continuous sequence, uninterrupted by an intervening cause, that produces an injury that would not have occurred but for that action.
For instance, there was a case in the late-1990s wherein a New Hampshire woman stayed in a Lewiston hotel for a work conference and, after socializing with co-workers in the hotel lounge, disappeared. Her body was found the following morning in a nearby field. A man later pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and representatives of her estate sued the hotel for wrongful death due to inadequate security. The civil case reached the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which affirmed grant of summary judgment to defendant hotel in Cyr v. Adamar Associates. The court held that there was no evidence that existed to support a conclusion the hotel proximately caused decedent’s death. The court held that while it would be reasonable to presume she’d been abducted from the hotel, the evidence didn’t support the conclusion the hotel had proximately caused decedent’s death. Specifically, there was not concrete evidence she’d been abducted (as opposed to having left voluntarily). This plus the fact that she was not found on hotel property, the justices reasoned, made the assertion of a causal connection between the hotel security measures and decedent’s death were “too uncertain and tenuous” to hold the hotel owner liable.
That does not mean such cases aren’t winnable, but it’s highly case-specific. That’s why premises liability lawsuits in Maine should only be trusted to an experienced Bangor personal injury attorney.
If you are the victim of a Bangor hotel injury, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Cyr v. Adamar Associates, June 9, 2000, Maine Supreme Judicial Court
More Blog Entries:
Maine Concert Injuries Can be Grounds for Portland Premises Liability Lawsuit, Feb. 1, 2019, Bangor Hotel Injury Lawyer Blog