Can a Hotel be Liable for a Guest’s Personal Property Stolen from the Room?

Hotels are limited when it comes to their liability for stolen property.  Hotels are limited for s certain dollar amount regardless of the value of the stolen goods.  However, if you told the hotel the value of your jewelry, then the hotel may be liable for the full value of the goods.

Here are a few cases to help guide you, but it would be best to give us a call for a free consultation at 786-454-2411.

Held not liable, under a provision of the Illinois hotel statute relating to property of “special or unusual value” contained in a trunk or valise entrusted to the care of the hotel without notification of the actual value of the contents, for the loss of jewelry contained in two sample cases given to a bellboy and lost through the negligence of another hotel employee.

A guest who delivered certain money and jewelry to the managers of a hotel for deposit in the hotel safe, was held entitled to recover only the statutory limit of $250 when his property was lost or stolen through the negligence of the managers, since the guest had not declared the value of his property at the time of deposit and had not been given a receipt therefor as required by the statute.

A hotel should, in no event, be liable for the loss of any jewelry belonging to any guest of the hotel, unless the owner of the jewelry deposited it with the management of the hotel and received a written receipt therefor setting forth its value to preclude a guest from recovering the value of jewelry stolen from her room, allegedly due to the negligence of the hotel management, which had permitted the lock on the door of the guest’s room to remain unchanged for 5 days after the loss of the key by a maid. The court was of the opinion that neither the negligence of the hotel management nor its failure to provide the notice of limited liability required by the statute could prevent the hotel from pleading the statute in its defense, since no event or circumstance was excepted from the statutory provision relating to jewelry.

Under a statute relieving hotels from responsibility for valuable articles not deposited in the hotel safe, an hotel was held not liable to a guest whose five diamond rings and watch were stolen from her room during the night, despite the fact that the theft was apparently due to the negligence of the hotel either in failing to provide a suitable lock on the door of the guest’s room, or in so placing a fire escape as to grant easy access to the room from the street.16

A guest, whose gold locket was lost allegedly through negligence on the part of hotel employees after the guest had handed it to a hotel clerk, asking the clerk merely to hold the locket for a short while and not requesting that it be deposited in the hotel safe, was held precluded from recovering against the hotel in its capacity as an hotel the court noting that by statute, where an hotel kept an iron safe suitable for the safekeeping of money and jewelry in the hotel and posted notice regarding the presence of such a safe, he would not be liable for the loss of money or jewelry belonging to a guest, unless the guest offered to deliver the property to the hotel for deposit in the safe and the hotel refused to receive or to deposit it. In reversing a judgment for the plaintiff, the court explained that the hotel company became here at most a gratuitous bailee or depositary and was liable only for gross negligence in the care of the property and stated that the jury should have been instructed accordingly.

A guest sought to recover, inter alia, the value of jewelry contained in a suitcase which had been left in the care of a bell captain and which subsequently was negligently misdelivered by the night manager to an imposter, it was held that by statute the hotel was exempt from liability for the loss of valuables which had not been deposited in the hotel safe. A new trial was ordered, however, since the jury had not properly considered whether certain alleged assurances made by the bell captain to the guest constituted a waiver of the protection of the statute.

What Is a Hotel’s Liability?

The law refers to a hotel as an innkeeper.  Under common law, a hotel was liable for the loss or damage of their guest’s property for the full value unless the loss was caused by an act of God, an act of a 3rd party, or the fault of the guests.

Is a Hotel Always Liable for a Guest’s Personal Belongings?

If there was no negligence on behalf of the hotel, hotel liability depends on state law.  Here are some common examples where hotel liability is an issue:  An act of nature such as a fire that destroys the hotel.  Warning signs may create avoidance of liability, but a sign without much is usually not enough.  Lost goods are not liability of the hotel.  If you give the bellman your suitcase and in it there was jewelry, then the hotel is liable for the full value of the goods.  In law it’s called a “bailment”.

Can a Hotel Say it was the Guest’s fault?

Yes. The hotel is typically not liable for loss or damage of guests’ valuable if the loss was caused by the guest.  For example, If you don’t use the safe in your hotel room, and your valuables are stolen, some states laws say that the hotel is not liable because you didn’t use the safe provided.

Do I Need a Lawyer to get the Hotel to Pay for the Theft of My Personal items?  Since the law varies a lot between states, I would say that it is important.  We offer a free consultation.

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