Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Hotel Defendants in Sexual Assault Civil Case

Most people know that when a sexual assault occurs, the victim can press charges in a criminal case. Fewer people know that the victim can also bring a civil claim seeking compensation for his or her emotional suffering and other damages. At Therman Law Offices, our Illinois injury lawyers can assist sexual assault victims with asserting their legal rights following this unspeakable and horrific crime.

In a recent appellate decision, the court considered the applicability of premises liability in a situation involving a sexual assault at a hotel. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that she was a guest at a hotel in the Chicago area when she was drugged and subsequently raped in her room while unconscious. She reported having dinner in the hotel restaurant and ordering an alcoholic beverage. She alleged that the hotel security guard who also performed maintenance work was the one who drugged her drink and carried out the assault.

The victim and her husband filed the premises liability action against the hotel, the hotel’s Director of Operations, the franchisor for the hotel, the hotel group, and other defendants, including the alleged offender. The plaintiffs also asserted a cause of action based on negligent hiring and retention of the alleged offender, stating that they failed to discover that he had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute. They also asserted a cause of action for negligent training and supervision.

In an initial series of motions and hearings, the court dismissed with prejudice the premises liability claim and the negligent hiring, retention, and training claims against most of the hotel defendants. This left the alleged offender as the sole defendant in the case. The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of these claims and defendants.

On review, the appellate court concluded that the court erred in dismissing the premises liability claim against some of the defendants on the ground that the plaintiffs had adequately shown that there was a special relationship and duty of care between these hotel defendants and the plaintiff. It based this finding on the innkeeper and guest relationship between some of the hotel defendants and the plaintiff. Similar to how a common carrier owes passengers a duty, an innkeeper has a duty to take a reasonable action to protect guests from unreasonable harm and to provide them with first aid if it knows or has reason to know that an injury has taken place. The appellate court also determined that the sexual assault was reasonably foreseeable.

Finally, the appellate court upheld the dismissal of some of the hotel defendants, based on the finding that they were not the possessors of the premises and that they, therefore, had no control or authority over the hotel’s employees. As a result, they owed no duty of care to the plaintiff.

If you have been injured in a sexual assault, our premises liability lawyers are standing by and ready to assist you. This can be a confusing and traumatic time for the victim and his or her family, which is why we will ensure that your legal rights are protected and asserted at every step of the process. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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