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Unusual Cases

In the 1996 case of Woods-Leber v. Hyatt Hotels of Puerto Rico, Inc., a federal district court found that the posh oceanfront Cerromar Beach Hotel in Dorado, Puerto Rico was not liable for damages caused by a rabid mongoose that entered upon the hotel grounds and bit a guest. The hotel had no control over adjacent bordering swamplands, and no history of recurrent visits from mongooses.

Nor was there liability in two bizarre swimming pool cases: one involved the death of a 12-year-old girl whose hair was caught in a whirlpool’s suction; the other involved a Scottish Inn guest’s entrapment when his genitals became stuck in the pool’s suction hole. There is no duty to warn of unique hazards.

In 1999, several pre-lawsuit notices were filed against California hoteliers for alleged violations of California’s controversial “Proposal 65 of 1986.” The statute was intended to provide warnings about hazardous waste sites and contaminated water. However, lawyer Morse Mehrban, on behalf of the California Consumer Advocacy Group, sued Hilton Hotels, Fairfield Inns, and Residence Inns by Marriot for alleged violations of “Prop 65” involving guest exposure to chemicals in alcoholic beverages, chemicals in second-hand tobacco and cigar smoke, and noxious fumes in enclosed parking structures. Under the law, violations must be corrected within 60 days of notice. Prop 65 places primary burden on the manufacturer or packager of alcoholic and tobacco products, but responsibility shifts to hotels when products are separated from their original packaging, such as when hotels serve “house wine” or “house cigars” from hotel humidors. In such cases, liability can be avoided if hotels post required warning signs or correct the defect within the notice period.

Inside Unusual Cases