Sexual Assault Survivor Wins $44M In Negligent Security Suit Against Hilton
A jury recently decided that Hilton’s hotel contributed a sizeable amount of liability to a sexual assault that occurred on their premises. Lawsuits like these are filed under a theory of negligent security. They can be difficult to win, especially in hotel or hospitality settings, but a jury returned a verdict that Hilton was 90% liable for the woman’s rape.
How did that happen? Essentially, the woman was found outside of the hotel by a passerby who called 911 to describe an incapacitated woman and a man standing over her with his pants undone. The victim had identification in her purse, but the hotel failed to establish that she was a paying guest somehow. Instead, they ID’d the rapist who told them the woman was with him and allowed them both back into the hotel where the rape could continue in privacy. The woman was escorted by Hilton security into the rapist’s room.
Blame the victim
Of course, they did. They really don’t know anything better to do. This may not be a lack of creativity, but the law forces civil defendants to reduce their own liability by implicating the plaintiff. In this case, however, it totally backfired. Hilton was hit with the largest verdict against a Hotel chain related to sexual assault in the history of the U.S. Considering hotel chains are now routinely being hit with human trafficking lawsuits, that really is saying a lot.
In this case, the hotel sided with the rapist despite a phone call to police indicating the man was sexually assaulting a passed-out woman in public. They told the jury the woman was responsible for being raped because she had drunk too much. They told the jury it’s not the hotel’s job to ensure the plaintiff drinks responsibly. They used testimony that the rapist used in his defense of the charges to sway the jury into thinking that the woman had actually consented. Nonetheless, the woman was clearly incapacitated by the time the hotel employees wheeled her back into the hotel room and deposited her into the room of a man that was accused of assaulting her on the street.
Nonetheless, it is one of the considerations a personal injury plaintiff will need to prepare for when they file a claim against a company. The company’s best strategy, according to its own playbook, is to blame you for your injuries. While this strategy may work with a barfight lawsuit, blaming rape victims for being raped leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It gives the plaintiff’s counsel the opportunity to show the defendant as remorseless and lays bare what will happen if the jury doesn’t punish the defendant for their misconduct. It will happen over and over again, next time, maybe to someone you love.
Victim blaming is certainly a double-edged sword. Obviously, a better strategy would have been to fire the employees involved in the matter, and then argue the merits of the case on how far their duty of care extends to individuals who are intoxicated on-premises.
Talk to a Houston Negligent Security and Sexual Assault Lawyer
When sexual assaults occur in your apartment, hotel room, or any other place that is under the control of someone else and has a duty of care to visitors, you may be entitled to recover damages under a theory of negligent security. Call the Houston personal injury lawyers at Livingston & Flowers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.