The duty of an hotel to provide safe premises is based on the common law duty owed to business and social invitees of an establishment. Under common law, hotels must exercise reasonable care for the safety of their guests. Hotels may be found negligent if they knew or should have known, upon reasonable inspection, of the existence of a danger or hazard and failed to take action to correct it and/or warn guests about it. Accordingly, hotels have an affirmative duty to inspect and seek out hazards that may not be readily apparent, seen or appreciated by patrons and guests. In addition, they may have an affirmative duty to warn guests of dangers or hazards. If the risk of harm or damage was foreseeable, and the hotel failed to exercise reasonable care to either eliminate the risk or warn guests of its existence, the hotel may be liable for any resulting harm or damage caused by its negligence (“proximate cause”).
However, the law does not protect hotel guests from their own negligence. An “open and obvious” hazard, such as a bathroom tile floor that becomes slippery when wet after reasonable use, is not a basis for liability. On the other hand, if a poorly maintained bathroom fixture results in standing water on the tile floor, and an unsuspecting guest enters the bath-room and slips on the tile, the hotel would most likely be liable for damages. Likewise, standing water on any floor in the hotel, if left standing beyond a reasonable time for management to have detected and eliminated it, may result in liability for the hotel.
Hotel swimming pools are a major topic for litigation battles. After a rash of lawsuits in the 1970s, diving boards have disappeared from almost all hotel pools. But that has not stopped diving accidents from occurring as a result of swimmers leaping from the edges of pools, piers, and docks. It is important that “NO DIVING” signs are posted in highly visible areas. There is no minimum requirement regarding the number or nature of posted warnings, but a hotel’s diving-accident history is key in establishing what would be considered “adequate,” “sufficient,” or “satisfactory” posted warnings in any legal matter. Statutes in most states do not require the presence of lifeguards at hotel pools. However, “NO LIFEGUARD” warnings should be posted and visible from all angles of the pool. All water recreational facilities must have emergency telephone service.