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Plaintiff’s Chance of Recovery Dims in Light of Federal Court Ruling

darkIn September of 2009, Michael Eason reserved a room at the Boston Marriot Burlington Hotel for an overnight stay.  After checking into the hotel at approximately 8:00 pm, he made his way to his rented room.  After opening the door to his hotel room, Mr. Eason admitted that the room was dark except for the faint glow emanating from the partially open door and a small gap in the curtain hanging over the windows.  As he stepped further into the hotel room, the light became even fainter as the door fully closed.  Mr. Eason took a few more steps in his room and unexpectedly encountered a coffee table that caused him to sustain a serious fall.  Mr. Eason alleges that it was negligence on behalf of the hotel that caused or substantially contributed to the injuries he sustained in connection with his fall.  A suit was commenced in Middlesex Superior Court but was ultimately moved to federal court for litigation.  The Defendant Hotel filed a motion for summary judgment in hopes of getting the case dismissed.

In order to succeed in a claim predicated on negligence a plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that there was a breach in the purported standard of care, and due to the breach the plaintiff was caused to sustain damages for which he or she should be compensated.  In discussing the duty in this matter, the Judge reiterated that:

“While a landowner has a duty to lawful visitors of its property to maintain reasonably safe conditions and to warn of unreasonable dangers, landowners “are relieved of the duty to warn of open and obvious dangers on their premises because it is not reasonably foreseeable that a visitor exercising (as the law presumes) reasonable care for his own safety would suffer injury from blatant hazards. . . Stated otherwise, where a danger would be obvious to a person of ordinary perception and judgment, a landowner may reasonably assume that a visitor has knowledge of it . . . .””

The Defendant argued, and the court agreed, that traveling in an unfamiliar area in complete darkness is an open and obvious danger.  In such situations, a plaintiff should know and appreciate the nature and degree of darkness.  The Plaintiff made no attempt to showcase that the Defendant misled by any act or omission the contents of the room or the layout of the room.  The Plaintiff made an attempt at relying on a case in which a defendant induced a plaintiff to go through the wrong door enroute to the restroom.  As a result of this, the plaintiff fell into a grease pit and sustained significant injuries.  The court in that case held that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care because the plaintiff was invited and encouraged to the dangerous area.  In the instant case, the Plaintiff was not encouraged to walk in complete darkness.  As the court noted, “a person of average intelligence would expect that a hotel room would contain furniture that may not be visible in darkness.”  As such, the Judge ruled in favor of the Defendant and the case was dismissed.

Property owners and other parties in control of the premises have a duty to protect invitees from unreasonable harm.  While the Plaintiff was unsuccessful in the case of Michael Eason v. Marriot International, Inc., many times a plaintiff is able to be compensated for his or her injuries.  To read more on this case, please read Michael Eason v. Marriot International, Inc., which was decided on May 28, 2014 by the United States District Court. You can access this case on the United States District Court of Massachusetts’ website by clicking here and searching by case name. If you believe you have slip and fall case, our office can help you. To schedule a free consultation with lawyer Daniel Cappetta, call our office today at (508) 969-9505 or fill out or contact form available on the right side of this page.