There is an interesting tort case out of Miami where a New Jersey woman, Anna Burgese, is suing W Hotel (owned by Starwood) after a beat down by prostitutes outside of the hotel. Burgese says that the hotel is widely known as catering to a large prostitution business and failed to protect guests. Police believe that the prostitutes assumed that Burgese was a “working girl” intruding on their territory.
Burgese says that both she and her husband, Joseph, were attacked after walking through the W Hotel lobby. The Burgese’s lawsuit claimed that the W Hotel “fosters a prostitute-friendly environment where prostitutes are permitted to market themselves on the premises, as evidenced by, among other things, the reviews left on various travel websites by former guests.” The question is how that prior knowledge affects her claim in later being attacked by those prostitutes.
There are some striking similarities to the case of Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue. In Kline a landlord was found liable for not taking precautions to protect tenants from crime in an apartment building in Washington. That case involved a tenant who remained on the property during years of decline of the neighborhood in Washington, D.C., but continued as an at-will tenant. She was aware of the crime in the area and the building. However, the court still held that the landlord was liable even though he met housing regulations. He still violated the implied warranty of habitability.
The same logic could be used in this case. However, these cases continue to work against the general rule that criminal acts by third parties cut off proximate causation. It comes down to a question of foreseeability and the failure of taking reasonable steps to protect guests.
Here the couple is arguing that the staff “knew who the attackers were” and yet did not cooperate in identifying the attackers.