Hotel’s Liability Hotly Contested

Hotel’s Liability Hotly Contested

The plaintiff in this case brought a suit for personal injuries against a hotel when she allegedly stepped into a pothole while walking across the property’s parking lot. The plaintiff was staying at the hotel on the Oregon Coast and claimed that during the evening she was walking her dog from her hotel room across the hotel’s dimly lit parking lot when she stepped awkwardly into the hole. It was undisputed that the plaintiff suffered a distal fibula fracture to her ankle.

The hotel owner adamantly denied the claim as she had a completely different version as to how the plaintiff’s injury occurred.   The hotel had a strict “no pet” policy anywhere on the premises. The following morning, the hotel owner noticed the plaintiff with her dog in the room. According to the owner, the plaintiff explained she had been walking on the beach with her dog that morning and had turned her ankle awkwardly on a rock, and she was just giving her dog some water before heading to the car. The plaintiff stubbornly denied taking her dog to the beach.

The hotel was represented by Smith Freed & Eberhard Partner, Matt Ukishima. The plaintiff sought past and future medical expenses, past wage loss and impaired earnings capacity totaling well over $100,000.  Over the course of litigation, Matt was able to convey that there were several key inconsistencies with plaintiff’s story.  In deposition, the plaintiff admitted knowing that the dog was not allowed in the room and was required to stay in her car parked outside the parking lot, and she would never have thought to violate the policy.  She claimed that she brought the dog to her room only that one time because of her ankle injury.  Curiously, the pothole was only a few feet from her room, and according to her story she was with her dog walking in the direction to her car from her room when she stepped in the hole.  The evidence further demonstrated that the pothole was in an open, unobstructed area clearly illuminated by motion-sensor lights.

In the end, the parties agreed to a nominal settlement of $19,500, which included $5,000 in no-fault medical benefits to plaintiff. Matt’s clients were obviously very pleased with the result.