U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

Court: Hotel Had Duty to Man Injured in Lobby Fight

Late one night, Henry Mu was waiting for his girlfriend outside a hotel when a fight broke out.

A rowdy group of men, who had been kicked out of their room for disrupting guests, were chasing down a man. Mu told the hotel valet to call the police.

"That's not my problem," the valet said. In Mu v. Omni Hotels Management Corporation, turns out it was.

Duty of Care

Mu tried to get away from the fracas, but some of the young men stormed into the lobby after him. They punched, shoved, and kicked him to the ground.

After beating him up, they threw a table at him and fled. Mu suffered a broken arm, and later sued the unknown attackers for battery and the hotel for negligence.

But he couldn't identify the assailants and the trial judge dismissed the hotel, saying it had no duty of care for the plaintiff.

On appeal, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The judges said the hotel had a duty because the attack on Mu was foreseeable.

Foreseeable Injury

The appeals panel acknowledged that other courts have ruled defendants have no duty to people hurt by "spontaneous criminal acts of an unrelated third party." That is especially so when there is no strong evidence of foreseeability, the court said.

However, everything changed at the Omni when the valet saw what happened before the attack. He saw the youth men fighting among themselves and picking on a passer-by. Hotel security had also evicted them for disrupting guests, the court noted.

"While Mu's ultimate injury may have been unforeseeable at the time of his attackers' eviction, this certainly changed after a fight broke out within the group and members of the group then turned on a passer-by," the appeals court said.

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