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Vacation, Resort and Recreational Liability

by John Leighton on Categories: resort torts

Vacation, Resort and Recreational Liability

Vacation, Resort and Recreational Liability

Each year, more than 80 million people come to Florida – one of the most resort-enriched locations on the planet. The resort business is Florida’s economic base, even in difficult economies. In fact, the state tends to benefit from a downturn because it is less expensive for American travelers to come to Florida than travel to an international destination. 

When people go on vacation, they assume that there are built-in safety measures in their hotel, resort or cruise ship. They are not thinking about the inadequate lighting that criminals notice or the slippery floors around the perimeter of the swim-up bar.  They are also encouraged to drink heavily in their unfamiliar vacation environment, since alcohol is a significant revenue source for resorts, restaurants and cruise ships. Alcohol also makes people more relaxed and they tend to have more fun, but also let down their guard. Put this all together and you have the makings of tragedy – an accident, a crime or a negligent action that results in serious injuries or death.
What Is a Resort Tort?

Resort torts are instances of civil liability for negligent or intentional acts that arise out of a resort, vacation or recreational setting. They come in all shapes and sizes and can occur almost anywhere in Florida – the common focus is that they involve leisure recreational activities and travel, for Florida visitors and residents alike. A resort tort can involve:

• Hotel and motel safety
• Cruise ship injuries
• Leisure boating and jet ski incidents
• Amusement and theme park liability
• Aquatic, diving and swimming incidents
• Gaming and casinos
• Aviation (commercial and general)
• Rental car liability
• Moped, bicycle and motorcycle safety
• Buses and tour guides
• Travel industry liability for crime victims
• Medical care provided to vacationers
There are countless examples of all the unfortunate things that can happen at a resort, vacation or recreational location. Deaths, injuries, sexual assaults and other violent crimes do occur, even in Florida’s most popular theme parks, though many have been successful in keeping things quiet when problems occur.  

Premises Liability

Many Resort Torts involve premises liability at hotels, resorts, amusement parks and nightclubs. It is key to first consider the duty owed to the plaintiff. Was the plaintiff an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser?  Their status affects the duty. Did someone breach that duty? Did the plaintiff do anything wrong? Also consider the issue of causation: Did the defendant’s actions cause the damage to the injured party?
As a general rule, property owners have a duty to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition to protect the invitee from dangers of which the owner is aware, should be aware, or might reasonably foresee.

Premises Security

Many types of Resort Torts fall into the premises security category. In Florida, every landlord, owner and lessee owes a duty of care to the public to eliminate and protect against reasonably foreseeable intentional acts of third parties. The business is not an insurer of the public safety, but does have a duty to protect against a reasonably foreseeable act.

Some of the issues to consider in hotel premises security cases:

• Hotel policies and procedures. Do they meet industry standards?    
• The surrounding neighborhood: Is it safe or not?
• Access to hotel grounds: Are there trespassers wandering around?
• Housekeepers and maintenance staff: Do they go into the rooms and leave the doors open or not?
• Hiring and supervision: Has the hotel conducted an adequate background check on employees who come into contact with the public?
• Hardware and locks: What kind of equipment is used to secure a room, including the windows and terrace as well as the doors?
• Elevator access: Do guests have to show a room key before accessing the lodging floors?
My firm continually sponsors informative and interactive seminars on “ResortTorts ….and the Courts” with speakers that include notable judges and attorneys. Contact me for more information.

BY John Elliott Leighton, ESQ.
Leighton Law, P.A.
1401 Brickell Avenue, Suite 900
Miami, FL 33131
121 South Orange Avenue, Suite 1150
Orlando, FL 32801

South Florida Legal Guide 2011 Financial Edition

Tags: vacation resort and recreational liability

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