Hotel Law Cases Analysis: Customer and Hotel

Macgregor V beatrice

The facts of the case are as follows. Peter has availed himself of a room at MacGregor hotel for a period of one week. On the second night of his stay, Peter invited Beatrice to be his guest and dine at the Hotel’s restaurant. After ordering a meal of Helford oysters without first checking with Beatrice the two ate. Some of the Oysters that they ate were bad and they began to suffer the effects of food poisoning. Beatrice in particular began to feel dizzy and soon had to go to a lavatory. As she stood up she asked for directions to the lavatory and proceeded to go to the same. According to the testimony of the staff, instead of going to the lavatory where she was directed, she took an entirely different route. The place she went to had numerous warning signs that indicated that it was a staff-only area. Clearly, she did not listen to what the staff told her and decided to follow her own route. After entering the off-limits area she found herself in a poorly maintained area of the Hotel and met an accident. She tripped on a torn piece of carpeting and broke her arm. The claims, in this case, can be divided into two parts. The first part involves claims related to the bad Oysters that Beatrice ingested. The second part will discuss the liability of the Hotel with respect to her broken arm.

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Bad Oyster

Part II Section 7 of the Food Act defines that food which is injurious to health shall include not only the probable effect of that food on the health of a person consuming it but also the probable cumulative effect of food substantially the same in composition on the health of the person consuming it in ordinary quantities. In this case, some of the oysters were bad. The claim is based on the fact that oysters that were unfit for human consumption were fed to Peter and Beatrice. The claim is substantiated by the fact that Beatrice got sick after eating the said oysters.

On an evidentiary note, the possibility exists that Beatrice was merely allergic to oysters and that the oysters were perfectly fine. The basis for this is the fact that Peter did not consult Beatrice and simply went ahead and ordered. Beatrice could have consumed Helford oysters unwittingly despite being allergic to the same. The allegation that the oysters were bad may be just an attempt to shield this fact and obtain financial benefit from what happened. But since this is evidentiary and requires information that is not presently available the memorial will not dwell upon this allegation.

This case does not concern Peter. Instead, it is a claim of Beatrice against MacGregor for allegedly being fed bad oysters. This claim, or any claim by Beatrice for that matter, can not be immediately entertained because there is no direct contractual or quasi-contractual link between Beatrice and Macgregor. The facts of the case are analogous to Donoghue v Stevenson. The famous snail in a ginger beer bottle case where Donoghue received a ginger beer from one of her mates which contained a decomposing snail. In that case, she later got sick because of the snail and her advocates successfully argued that there was a relationship between the owner of the ginger beer company and her even if she did not purchase the beer herself. Lord Akin quoted the Gospel on Luke in establishing the Neighbourhood principle. This principle established that when there is no established duty of care, a person will still owe a duty of care not to injure those who it can be reasonably foreseen would be affected by the acts or omissions. In the case at hand, the Neighborhood principle comes to life. Beatrice is not a customer or client of MacGregor, Peter is the only guest. However, the Hotel has required a level of diligence commensurate with preventing Beatrice from coming to harm within the premises.

Therefore, if it is indeed proven that the Helford oysters fed to Beatrice were bad or otherwise unfit for consumption Macgregor stands to be held liable for serving them even if there was no ill intent or malice involved. Such a claim would be in the form of a tort and would not provide the basis for a criminal charge. After all the basic principle of criminal law is that there is criminal intent or motive in a crime. In this case, there is none so the worst-case scenario, with respect to the bad oysters, is a finding of gross negligence on the part of Macgregor.

Broken arm

The same neighborhood principle applies in the second claim. Again when Beatrice broke her arm she was neither a client nor a guest of the Macgregor establishment. Thus, her standing in the hotel is more or less analogous to a trespasser albeit one that was welcomed by a guest of the hotel.

In the claim for the broken arm, the three-fold test was found in Caparo Industries Plc. v Dickman should be applied. In the three-fold test, the harm must be a “reasonably foreseeable” result of the defendant’s conduct. There must be a relationship of “proximity” between the defendant and the claimant. And finally, it must be “fair and reasonable” to impose liability.

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Starting with the harm caused it was not easily foreseeable. There was plenty of warning for Beatrice had she chosen to heed it. The signs indicated that the area she entered was off-limits to non-staff members. The lavatory she was directed to was not where she was going. Her disregard of the rules of the hotel could not have been reasonably foreseen because most people would have simply followed the instructions of the staff.

The proximate relationship between Macgregor and Beatrice was formed based on the neighborhood principle as expounded upon by Lord Akin in Donoghue. As the guest of a client, the hotel was expected to maintain due diligence to ensure that she did not get hurt.

However, the argument in the defense of Macgregor will be based upon the lack of a fair and reasonable assessment of liability to the Hotel as the company was not negligent in its efforts to prevent Beatrice from trying to go to the area that had been cordoned off. Short of employing force there was ought that the staff could do to restrain Beatrice from doing as she, please.

In the case of British Railway Board v. Harrington, the court found the British Railway still liable for the safety of trespassers. Regardless of the fact, the people who were unwelcome guests at the railroad that they got hurt are still the liability of the railroad. Based on the jurisprudence, in that case, the mere fact that Beatrice successfully wandered into that place of the Hotel of her own free will and was subsequently injured can still be the basis of liability upon Macgregor. Assuming that the court does concur with this theory of tort liability, Macgregor is not defenseless. If necessary it can ground its defense in the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act which provides;

‘Where any person suffers damage as the result partly of his own fault and partly of the fault of any other person or persons, a claim in respect of that damage shall not be defeated by reason of the fault of the person suffering the damage, but the damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced to such extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant’s share in the responsibility for the damage’

For unknown reasons, Beatrice chose to enter the off-limits area despite reasonable efforts by the staff to prevent her from doing so she entered a sealed-off area that had been cordoned off because of its poor physical state. As a result of her wandering, she got injured. Her own negligence in ignoring the obvious signs of warning and ignoring the directions given to her by the staff must be found as mitigating any liability that may be found against McGregor.

Peter v. Macgregor

The petitioner, Peter, claims, in this case, the existence of a liability on the part of Macgregor for the loss of his expensive Olympus Camera. The petitioner’s claim is based upon the Hotel Proprietors’ Act of 1956 and the Occupiers’ Liability Act of 1957. There will be a discussion of the potential liabilities of Macgregor as well as possible defenses that may be offered

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Peter books a room at Macgregor’s hotel for a period of one week. When he did so he was cognizant of the Hotel Proprietors Act (1956) because in adherence to the law a copy of the same was readily available at the reception. He saw this form on the desk and reacted to its limiting of liability clause by asking that his expensive camera be stored in the hotel safe for safekeeping. The receptionist refused to state that the safe was already full and the Camera could not be accommodated. Later the Camera was stolen from his Hotel room. The loss of the camera is the liability which Peter claims against MacGregor.

Under the Hotel Proprietor’s Act, the hotel may be held liable to make good the loss to a guest property even if the loss was not due to the fault of the proprietor or the staff of the hotel. Section 1 subsection 3 of the same Act also provides that the liability of the Hotel shall not exceed fifty pounds in respect of any one article, or one hundred pounds in the aggregate. Given the nature of the stolen item, the value of the thing lost is worth more than the ceiling amount and thus this would suggest that Peter would require a remedy beyond the pale of this act to adequately compensate him for the lost camera.

However, subparagraph c of the same heading provides the exception that if at the time the guest arrived at the hotel the property in question was offered for the deposit and the proprietor or his servant refused to receive it the limitation of that subsection will not apply. Provided further that a copy of the act was clearly visible on the premises when the client checked in. In this case, the receptionist refused to accept the camera for deposit claiming that the Hotel Safe could not accommodate his item. Given the preponderance of evidence against MacGregor, the facts of the case would have it on all fours against MacGregor and in favor of awarding Peter damages at least equal to the value of his lost Camera.

To make matters worse, the possibility exists that the Hotel is also left naked to a claim of damages for above and beyond his actual losses. As in Jarvis v. Swan Tours, Jarvis was awarded not only for his actual damages but also for the emotional damages he incurred. Peter may claim extraordinary damages for the emotional and psychological suffering he endured because of the loss of the camera.

Kott and Kott v Gordon Hotels established the doctrine that when the loss was the result of a willful act by an employee of the hotel, the hotel can not claim shelter under the limitations of the Hotel Proprietor’s Act the facts of the case are silent as to the actual reason why the receptionist refused to accept the Camera for deposit other than the bare assertion that she said it was already full. Assuming she had substantial reasons for refusing the deposit the refusal alone has rendered any protection the Hotel had nugatory because it is a statutory imputation of responsibility. The Hotel’s recourse against the receptionist for her negligence is not coequal with Peter’s claim against the hotel. It should also be noted that in Kott the award of damages was for just over 4000 pounds sterling for the stolen jewelry way more than 100 pounds limitation. Thus, Macgregor may be held liable for more than just the value of the stolen object.

The Hotel also runs afoul the Occupiers’ Liability Act because the theft presupposes that it has failed its ‘common duty of care’ to protect the private goods of the client and keep him reasonably safe from harm. Peter can still levy a claim upon the Occupier’s liability act because the Hotel Proprietor’s Act specifically provides that it does not void other claims that a wronged client may have.

In sum, The Hotel Proprietor’s Act hangs a sword of heavy liability upon the Hotel. The Hotel is in compliance will also proper procedures mentioned there the only exception being the failure of the receptionist to accept the deposit of the Camera. However, that one mistake is fatal to the case of the Hotel. The Interests of the Hotel are best served if it chooses to settle out of court rather than go to trial and suffer the ignominy of losing. If the case does go to trial the best that can be hoped for is mitigation of the penalty in light of the Hotel’s otherwise strict adherence to the letter of the law

Works Cited

Hotel Proprietor’s Act (1956).

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Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945.

Occupiers Liability Act 1957.

Food Safety Act 1990.

British Railway Board v Herrington [1972] AC 877.

Caparo Industries v Dickman.

Donoghue v Stevenson [1933] AC 562.

Kott and Kott v. Gordon Hotels [1968] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 228.

Jarvis v. Swan Tours [1973] 2 QB 233.

Hobbs V Winchester Corporation [1910] 2 KB 471.

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