Date:October 4, 2011
Re: Potential negligence claim against the Yellow Jacket Inn Statement of Facts
Last weekend a group of Georgia Tech alumni stayed at the Yellow Jacket Inn in Atlanta to attend the Georgia Tech-Vanderbilt football. After the game one of the alumni walked into his room and saw an intruder inside stealing his clothes and going through his personal items. The intruder physically attacked the alumni and stole his wallet. The alumni was left with a bloody nose, black eye, and a broken wrist. This is the first time a guest has been attacked in their room or had anything stolen from their room at the Yellow Jacket Inn since it opened in 2000. However, this is not the first time an incident has occurred on their property. On previous occasions, vandals had broken into three or four cars and stolen stereos and loose change. On another occasion guests were mugged walking around the outskirts of the parking lot, but no one was injured. Also, a thief broke into an unoccupied storage closet and stole towels and shampoo. The owner believes that none of these incidents have occurred during a Georgia Tech football game, but may have occurred during a Georgia Tech baseball game. You asked for my opinion as to whether the Georgia Tech alumni can prove the owner of the Yellow Jacket Inn for negligently failing to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises and points of access safe.
Under O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1, does the Georgia Tech alumni have sufficient evidence to prove that the owner of the Yellow Jacket Inn failed to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises and points of access safe when (1) three or four cars were vandalized where stereos and loose change were stolen from the cars, (2) guests were mugged on the outskirts of the Yellow Jacket Inn parking lot, and (3) an unoccupied storage closest was broken into and had towels and shampoo stolen from it? Brief Answer
Probably not. The Georgia Tech Alumni cannot prove the owner could reasonably anticipate that a violent attack may occur in a guest’s hotel room based on the previous criminal activities that took place at the Yellow Jacket Inn. They were also unaware of a burglary in a guest’s hotel room. However, the Georgia Tech alumni can prove the Yellow Jacket Inn is a corporation and the owner is responsible for the property and that the alumni was a paying guest at the inn. The alumni can also prove that guests were harmed on the Yellow Jacket Inn’s property, but the crimes are not similar to prove the alumni’s physical attack and burglary in his room were foreseeable. Therefore, the Georgia Tech alumni will probably not be able to prove this element of negligence, so the owner of the Yellow Jacket Inn will be found not negligent. Discussion
O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 states that:
“Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 explains that a property owner who invites others to come to their premises for legal reasons must use ordinary care to keep their premises safe. Ordinary care means the property owner must take the steps required to protect others form similar criminal acts committed in the past. The alumni can most likely prove all of the elements of O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 except for failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and points of access safe. The alumni can prove the Yellow Jacket Inn is a corporation with an owner that is responsible for the property and that the Georgia Tech alumni was a paying guest who had the right to be on the property. The alumni can prove the damages done to him on the Inn’s property, but there is no proof that the Inn did not exercise ordinary care of keeping the...