Marriott Blames Mother Raped in One of Its Garages in Tort Lawsuit

200px-Marriott_Logo.svgStamford Marriott Hotel and Spa has allowed its attorneys to aggressively pursue a mother of two children who was pulled into her van and raped in front of her children in a Marriott hotel. Marriott now asserts that the 40-year-old mother was responsible in the attack, failed to “mitigate their damages,” and has sought discovery from friends and neighbors. The move led to a predictable backlash among the public.

The counterclaim and discovery is standard in a torts action, though lawyers and clients often fail to see the objections to pursuing a sympathetic victim.

On Oct. 10, 2006, Danbury native Gary Fricker, 56, forced this mother to take off her clothes and then raped her under threat that, if she didn’t comply, he would rape her children. He received a 20-year deal — which I view as a bit light when you consider his act in kidnapping the family, threatening a 3 and 5 year old with rape, and the use of a gun. The prosecutors may have felt compelled to accept a deal to spare the women and her children from a traumatizing trial. However, she now suggests that Marriott has more than made up for the experience.

The mother has also asserted the right to anonymity, but her lawyers insist that the hotel has identified her to her pilates instructor, friends and tennis partners, a house cleaner, and a baby sitter through its private investigation.

The question is whether the lawyers have gone too far or are simply doing their due diligence as advocates. After all, it is a bit unfair to bar discovery to a defendant to protect anonymity in a civil — as opposed to a criminal — case. The victim elected to file the action and Marriott has a right to defend itself.

However, this still does not entirely justify an aggressive litigation approach or a decision not to settle the action. Justice may be blind but lawyers are expected to see the implications of their strategic decisions. As we have seen in other cases, companies often allow lawyers to adopt aggressive approaches toward sympathetic parties only to drop the claims after public ridicule. Lawyers are trained to win cases or lower damages. Yet, good lawyers will raise the public relations implications (and indecent aspects) of a litigation strategy with their client. As in these earlier cases, Marriott has now dropped the claim of contributory negligence — after infuriating the public and tarnishing its corporate name further. Marriott attorney Donald Derrico, however, insists that they never revealed the name of the victim and would conduct any discovery with care. The legal strategy, however, succeeded in bringing national attention to the alleged dangers of Marriott properties and the view of Marriott as a heartless and careless corporation. It not only tarnished the corporate image but likely convinced many to avoid the chain entirely. A considerable cost before the parties even enter court — and long before any jury verdict.

In one of the most disturbing claims, Marriott alleged that the victim “failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities.” It is a pretty outrageous argument when one considered that she allowed herself to be rape to keep her children from being raped.

Here the mother is claiming that Marriott knew that the man was acting strangely on the property for days before the attack. She also claims that he was known to be acting strangely that afternoon but security did not act to apprehend him or call police.

For the full story, click here.

55 thoughts on “Marriott Blames Mother Raped in One of Its Garages in Tort Lawsuit”

  1. useyourhead 1, August 27, 2009 at 12:12 am

    “Womem need too remain calm in these situations and think. She could have offered to give him a blowjob outside the van, away from the children, and he probably would have accepted, then everybody could have gone on their merry way. No harm no foul.”
    *******************

    Are you for real? Or are you just trying to invoke a response? I think you have control issues, lack of!

    This was uncalled for if this is really the way you believe Boy oh Boy does the state of Washington have a Judge for you! You might even get paid for it, he is a wholesome lot, married, catholic, children but he likes boys, heck who knows for a Hershey Bar you might even get a Butterfinger.

  2. “Womem need too remain calm in these situations and think. She could have offered to give him a blowjob outside the van, away from the children, and he probably would have accepted, then everybody could have gone on their merry way. No harm no foul.”

    O where to begin.

    First, it’s a good thing you’re talking about “womem” and not “women” because you’re full of crap. What if it was your Mom or Wife or Daughter or Grandmother? Not such a hot damn solution now is it? How about this solution? Mr. Hot To Whip Out His Thing goes home with a trashy DVD or fires up the Net and date with Rosie. I’m thinking that no harm no foul trumps yours by Hoyle’s rules of the game and oh, what’s that other thing, THE LAW. And there’s that whole right and wrong thing too. I blame your parents.

    Second, “blowjob” is two words. It’s not a branded product but a compound noun describing an action and a work ethic. But that level of sophistication about what I’d expect from someone who made the original comment either seriously or in jest. Seriously, even as a joke that sucked.

  3. Womem need too remain calm in these situations and think. She could have offered to give him a blowjob outside the van, away from the children, and he probably would have accepted, then everybody could have gone on their merry way. No harm no foul.

  4. It was more likely a consequence of “working the file” in an effort to maximize the fee potential of the case. The defense team went overboard and it’s coming back to bite them.


    I can’t disagree totally because that’s not how I arranged
    matters when I was in charge of claims for my old company.

    Generally speaking, insurance companies are not in business to pay claims. They are in business to collect premiums!

  5. I have tried cases against large corporations over the course of my career and have made certain observations:
    1. Large companies tend to hire large firms to represent them.
    2. Large law firms typically assign entire teams of lawyers to work on significant cases.
    3. The “team” approach results in certain practices which are not particularly helpful to the client, but which materially enhance the profitability of the case, including:
    a. Asserting a laundry list of defenses, regardless of whether or not they make any sense within the context of the particular fact situation;
    b. Engaging in unnecessary and time consuming discovery;
    c. Raising frivolous objections to production requests and insisting upon confidentiality agreements as a condition to even trivial disclosures;
    d. Filing interminable pre-trial motions, each accompanied by a memorandum of law.

    I have some doubts about whether what occurred in this case was the result of some carefully thought out defense strategy. It was more likely a consequence of “working the file” in an effort to maximize the fee potential of the case. The defense team went overboard and it’s coming back to bite them.

  6. Mike S,

    See no negative comments by me. I keep my word. Passive Aggressive people can come and go. I can be more aggressive than passive at time. But can’t we all?

    Don;t forget that before Utah was a state and just a territory, women had the right to vote regardless of race. who would have thought? Lastly the first woman to serve in an Official capacity as a Congresswoman was from Montana. You know she could not even vote for herself. Janette Rankin, I think was her name. Sometime about 1916 or 1917. I do not think that White Women got the right to vote until August 1918.

    I am reading a book right now about Civil War Generals. If accurate Jefferson Davis made a mistake backing Braggs and side stepping Daniel Harvey Hill both Generals and this is where the tides turned during the war. Anyway here is the link if you care to read anymore: http://www.civilwarhome.com/dhhill.htm .

  7. mespo727272’s Law of Multi-Million Dollar Verdicts:

    Behind every multi-million dollar verdict is a jerk defense lawyer or out-of-control defendant who seems hell bent on testing the common sense of the jury. Have at it Marriott, I shall await your “Pennsoil Moment.”

  8. I agree with AY, particularly in light of Vince’s further clarification. LDS types are quintessentially businessmen and so the realization by the Chain that this brings ridicule to their brand. Where else does one see a revelation from God, end polygamy, just in time to get statehood?

  9. What’s more likely is that the franchisee would have been well served to have someone, in management, actually READ the Franchise Agreement AND the insurance contracts with respect to timely Notice to the Franchisor – Marriott, in this case.

    Unless I miss my guess, it was simply not enough for the franchise/local Agent to drop/toss all litigation balls, so to speak, by sending every Summons and Complaint to ‘Joe lawyer’ who handles any liability cases filed in that area and/or who never should have been ‘assigned’ THIS particular case from the outset.

    That’s what claims professionals are capable of adding to the
    Claims cost-control mix, but only if everybody understands and is genuinely concerned about the object of the exercise.

  10. The 3d para on franchises seems garbled. The rest is pasted here without comment.

    Quote
    Marriott Disowns One Hotel’s Defense in Rape Case
    By Thomas Heath
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Marriott International is seeking to distance itself from a legal defense employed by one of its franchise hotels, which suggested that a Connecticut woman “failed to exercise due care” before she was raped at gunpoint in front of her children in a hotel parking garage.
    ….
    Marriott said it has pressured the legal team to withdraw the filings, saying in a statement Tuesday that it was “a mistake to suggest that the victim of this tragic incident was responsible for the vicious crime against her.”

    The Stamford Marriott is one of the company’s franchise hotels, which make up 70 percent of the 3,200 worldwide hotels under the Marriott brand. The other 30 percent are managed by Marriott but owned by someone else.

    Franchise hotels are not owned by Marriott, either. Franchisees pay the Bethesda-based hotel chain for the use of its brand and its reservation system. In return, each franchise hotel must maintain certain standards, including bed size and food service.

    About 100 suits a year are filed against Marriott International stemming from incidents at franchise hotels. In those cases, the franchisee’s insurance company controls the defense on behalf of those named in lawsuits.

    Officials in Marriott’s corporate offices said they asked the lawyers not to pursue a blame-the-victim defense as soon as they learned of it.

    “This incident is not reflective of our corporate culture or ethical standards, and we apologize to all of our guests and customers who were so deeply offended by the words used in the legal pleading,” Marriott said in its statement. [UQ]

    Source, Wash. Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081803491.html?sub=AR

    In the Comments to this article, pepperjade wrote: “Perhaps Marriott should consider changing insurance vendors if it was the insurance company that authorized this defenseless defense argument. Better yet, rescind the franchise for the hotel where the incident occurred as soon as contractually possible. The damage done to the Marriott brand far exceeds whatever settlement the insurance company should made with this woman. Oh yeah…reveal the name of this insurance company. The law firm, too.”

  11. Pardon my inaccuracy.

    It makes you look just like the hyper-aggressive ass you are.

  12. For the same reason I gave in regard to my online assessment of ‘Buddha is Laughing’s’ abilities, this lawyer, Donald Derrico, never would have worked for me, either…

    Like that better?

    Nooooo prob… ;p

  13. This lawyer, Donald Derrico, never would have worked for me,
    either…

    What a jerk!

  14. This is simply such a bad tactical decision one has to wonder which party to give the hairy eye, the lawyers or the corporate client.

  15. what’s the big surprise here… women always “ask” for it one way or another. perhaps she was wearing something suggestive. like clothing.

  16. What do you expect from a company that is owned by Mormons? I find this type of defense disgusting. Unless of course there is always an unless, she was in a conspiratorial relation to defraud the company. But it does not appear that way as the guy is supposed to get 20 years.

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