There is an interesting torts case brewing in Los Angeles where guests at the Cecil Hotel drank and bathed from a rooftop water tank that appears to have had a decomposing body in it for two weeks. The body of Elisa Lam was found after a worker investigated the cause for low water pressure at the hotel.
Guests have complained that the drinking water tasted bad and that their showers have a foul color and smell.
It is not clear how the 21-year-old Canadian ended up in the tank. There are four cisterns on the hotel roof.
I recall a similar event in Chicago with a restaurant decades ago where patrons drank water for an extended period before a body was discovered in a rooftop water tank.
Some guests at the Cecil hotel reported having black water come out of the shower before it would clear up.
The hotel is looking at serious liability. First there is the woman herself. It is not clear how a guest gained access to the roof or why a water source for the hotel would be accessible and not secured. Then there are the guests. This would seem to offer a solid basis for negligence and the negligent infliction of emotional distress. It could also be the basis for intentional infliction of emotional distress since reckless conduct can be substitute for classic intent. Clearly there are health risks but even greater emotional and psychological harm for guests.
The hotel advertises itself as an “affordable” hotel for “spend-thrifty travelers.” The hotel is only recommended by half of the visitors and has only 2 stars in rankings of hotels. The allegation of having guests drink and shower in corpse-saturated water is not likely to improve that standing.