In this week’s article, we examine the case of Johnson v. Marriott International Inc., Case No. C16-1875 RSM (W.D. Wash. May 11, 2017) in which “Plaintiff Jane Johnson was a guest at the JW Marriott Hotel Bangkok while visiting her son stationed in Thailand. Plaintiff has regularly stayed at Marriott hotels, and chose to stay at the JW Marriott in Bangkok based on her experience with Marriott hotels and reviews of its service. Plaintiff alleges that the JW Marriott logo is prominently displayed on both the outside and inside of the hotel where she stayed in Bangkok, appearing on everything from the guest registration card to napkins in the dining room. On December 8, 2015, plaintiff entered the hotel through the mezzanine level. Plaintiff tripped on the raised portion of the walkway and fell. Plaintiff was taken to a Bangkok hospital and diagnosed with a ‘comminuted impact fracture of the right humeral head and neck’. Determining she was unfit to take her scheduled flight back to the United States that day, doctors sent Plaintiff for emergency surgery (and) was not discharged until three days later, and has since suffered additional complications resulting from the surgery”.
Terror Targets Update
In Kenya: 5 policemen killed by suspected al-Shabab extremists, travelwirenews (1/3/2018) it was noted that “A Kenyan official says suspected members of the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab have killed five police officers in the northern county of Mandera”.
In French jihadists who fought with ISIS should be tried there, not in homeland-MP, travelwirenews (1/4/2018) it was noted that “French nationals arrested in Syria as fighters of (ISIS) terrorist group should face a trial there rather than be returned to France, an MP and a spokesman for Emmanuel Macron’s party has said”.
Are Charter Flights In Costa Rica Safe?
In Glusac, After a Plane Crash, Questions About Travel in Costa Rica, nytimes (1/4/2018) it was noted that “The country is a popular destination for Americans-but the fatal crash of a charter flight prompted inquiries about transportation alternatives. After 10 American travelers and two local crew members died this week when a charter flight in Costa Rica crashed on a remote hillside, tourism operators are mourning the tragedy and assessing its impact on travel to one of the world’s most established ecotourism destinations. The Dec. 31 crash killed five members of the Steinberg family of Scarsdale, N.Y. and four members of the Weiss family from Belleair, Fla., as well as their tour guide, Amanada R. Geissler, who was working for the active travel company Backroads”.
Checking Safety Of Charter Airlines
In Negroni, How to Check the Safety of a Charter Airline, nytimes (1/5/2018) it was noted that “‘We want the people in the back seat to know there is a resource to get information’ said Art Dawley, the chief executive of Wyvern, which assesses air charter services for corporate flight departments, frequent users of private aviation and more recently, ordinary travelers who do not usually take charters…For $49, Wyvern provides a report that includes the charter company’s insurance information, maintenance and pilot reports and an audit of the company’s safety systems (if available) so travelers can know ‘the airline has done everything it can to be sure it had managed risk to the industry standard’ Mr. Dawley said”.
Is Amtrak Safe? Not So Much
In Brown, First Lawsuits Filed in Deadly Amtrak Derailment, courthousenews (1/4/2018) it was noted that “An Amtrak employee training to be a conductor on the ill-fated inaugural run of the new high-speed Cascades train 501 sued the company Wednesday, as did a passenger injured in the deadly derailment (in Washington State)…The railroad bridge that crosses Interstate 5, where the Dec. 18 derailment that killed three and injured more than 100 occurred, is in Pierce County”.
In Amtrak passenger train derails in Georgia, no casualties, travelwirenews (1/4/2018) it was noted that “An Amtrak passenger train derailed about 1 kilometer away from Savannah Station in Georgia on Wednesday…There were some 311 passengers on board…but no one was injured”.
In Kennedy, Amtrak Reaches $265 Million Settlement Over Deadly Philadelphia Crash, npr (10/27/2017) it was noted that “Amtrak has reached a $265 million settlement with people affected by last year’s derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight and injured more than 200 others”.
Swiss Train Derailed
In Storm gusts derail Swiss train, lash Europe, travelwirenews (1/3/2018) it was noted that “Gusting winds blew a train off its tracks, injuring eight people, as winter storm Eleanor…battered Switzerland on Wednesday, bringing trees down on power lines, cutting electricity to thousands of homes”.
Avoid Devil’s Curve, Please
In Associated Press, Peru Bus Plunges Off ‘Devil’s Curve’, killing at Least 48, nytimes (1/2/2018) it was noted that “At least 48 people were killed Tuesday when a bus tumbled down a cliff onto a rocky beach along a narrow stretch of highway known as the Devil’s Curve…The bus was carrying 57 passengers to Lima, Peru’s capital, when it was struck by a tractor-trailer shortly before noon and plunged down the slope…The bus landed upside-down on a strip of shoreline next to the Pacific, the bodies of its passengers strewn among the rocks”.
In Rochabrun, Peru Bans Buses From Road Where Bus Plunged, Killing 51, nytimes (1/3/2018) it was noted that “Peru’s government on Wednesday banned buses from a notorious stretch of road where an intercity bus plunged off a cliff and onto a beach on Tuesday, killing 51 passengers in the deadliest traffic accident in Peru since 2013″.
Are ‘Do Not Disturb’ Signs Unsafe?
In Salam, Disney Hotels, Citing Safety and Other Reasons, Drop ‘Do Not Disturb’ Signs, nytimes (1/4/2027) it was noted that “Guests of some Walt Disney World hotels no longer have the option of hanging a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their doors, part of a change that requires a hotel employee to enter every room at least once every 24 hours, Disney said on Wednesday, Guests will instead get a ‘room occupied’ sign”.
The Mission: Plane Ticket Or Jail!
In Kershner, Israel Offers African Migrants a Choice: Ticket Out or Jail, nytimes (1/4/2018) it was noted that “Israel is offering a stark choice to tens of thousands of African migrants in the country: Agree to leave voluntarily by the end of March, with a plane ticket and a grant of $3,500, or face possible incarceration…It is the latest phase of Israel’s long campaign to expel tens of thousands of African migrants and asylum seekers, mostly Eritrean and Sudenese, who entered the country illegally. At least 20,000 have already left Israel. ‘The mission now’, Mr. Netanyahu said, ‘is to deport the rest’”.
Jakarta Is Sinking Fast
In Kimmelman, Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater, nytimes (12/21/2017) it was noted that “With climate change, the Java Sea is rising, and weather here is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt…But global warming turned out not to be the only culprit…The problem, it turned out, was that the city itself is sinking. If fact, Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, faster, even, than climate change is causing the sea to rise-so surreally fast the rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth”.
Uber & Lyft Driver Sex Trafficking
In Stack, School Soccer Coach in California Charged With Trafficking Teenage Girls, nytimes (1/3/2017) it was noted that “The man, Elan Seagraves, was a soccer coach for the local school district and he also worked as a driver for the ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft. He was arrested and charged with two felonies related to the trafficking and pimping of minors, said Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office”.
Uber Shareholders Cashing In
In Isaac, Uber Shareholders Including Kalanick Loosen Grip With Sales of Stock, nytimes (1/5/2018) it was noted that “Several of Uber’s early investors and company leaders are beginning to loosen their grip on the ride-hailing company-and are set to reap big riches in the process. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s former chief executive, has sold nearly one-third of his shares…for about $1.4 billion…Benchmark, a venture capital firm that invested when Uber was very young, plans to sell about $900 million of stock, or close to 15 percent of its holdings…They buyer of all these shares is an investment consortium led by SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate, which recently agreed to acquire $10 billion of Uber stock from shareholders”.
Save The Monkeys, Please
In Karasz, Fire Kills 13 Monkeys at U.K. Safari Park, nytimes (1/2/2018) it was noted that “Visitors to Woburn Safari Park, a short drive from London, are used to seeing monkeys come close to their cars, and even climb on them. But on Tuesday morning, the park’s 14-acre jungle drive-through was closed after a fire killed all 13 inhabitants of its patas monkey house”.
Airbnb Hosts, Not Airbnb, Responsible
In Petterson, Airbnb Defeats Aimco Lawsuit Over Unauthorized Subleases, bloomberg (1/2/2018) it was noted that “Airbnb Inc. Defeated a lawsuit by Apartment Investment & Management Co., one of the largest residential landlords in the U.S., alleging that the online home-sharing market place enables tenants to break their lease agreements through unauthorized sublets. A federal judge in Los Angeles agreed with Airbnb that (it is) insulated from the claims by the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that shields online service providers from liability for the content users post. ‘Here, what allegedly makes the listings ‘unlawful’, ‘illegal’ or ‘offending’ is that they advertise rentals that violate Aimco’s lease agreements’, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said in a Dec. 29 ruling. ‘Airbnb hosts, not Airbnb, are responsible for providing the actual listing information’”.
Landlords, Not Airbnb, Responsible
In Assa Properties Reaches Settlement with City for Tenants’ Alleged Airbnb Activity, advisors (1/2/2018) it was noted that “Assa Properties-an NYC based real estate investment and development firm and its founder, Salim ‘Solly’ Assa today announced that the company and the City of New York have voluntarily entered into a settlement agreement that resolves a dispute centering on tenant’s alleged Airbnb activity at four Assa owned residential properties”.
In Airbnb Dispute Between NYC, Landlord Settles for $1.2 M, law360 (1/5/2018) it was noted that New York City has reached what it says is a record $1.2 million settlement with Manhattan real estate owner Salim ‘Solly’ Assa over his tenants’ Airbnb use at four properties owned by Assa Properties”.
Is Venezuela Safe? Not Really
In Specia, Decoy Cellphones and Armored Cars: How Venezuelans Avoid Being Robbed, nytimes (12/29/2017) it was noted that “Armed robbers knock on windows of cars stuck in traffic and say, ‘Give me everything’. Men snatch cellphones and jewelry from passing pedestrians. Kidnappers follow people home in their cars at night, and demand ransoms from their families. Making it safely through the day in Venezuela’s capital, Caracus, one of the world’s most dangerous cities, requires a careful mix of planning and precaution…rising crime has created what one local group called a ‘feeling of permanent and silent fear’”.
Travel Law Case Of The Week
In the Johnson case the Court noted that “When Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff and her counsel believed Marriott International was the owner and operator of JW Marriott Bangkok. On February 7, 2017, Defendant Marriott International filed a three-pronged Motion To Dismiss…Defendant argues that (1) because it is neither the owner of the JW Marriott Bangkok nor the entity responsible for managing or operating the hotel, it did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care…(2) Plaintiff’s failure to join LHR, the wholly-owned Marriott subsidiary, prejudices Defendant and warrants dismissal and (3) Defendant…requests dismissal based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, arguing Thailand is the appropriate forum for adjudicating Plaintiff’s claims”.
Proposed Amended Complaint
“Plaintiff’s proposed amended complaint puts forth theories of Defendant Marriott’s liability based on apparent agency and alter ego. Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s addition of new theories of liability are futile because ‘there is no evidence to suggest that this Court should pierce the corporate veil’ or allow Defendant Marriott International to be held liable for the conduct of LHR under an agency theory. Defendant’s arguments fail”.
Alter Ego Theory
“The alter ego theory derives from the notion that courts should not respect the separateness of a corporation and its parent where the parents exert such an amount of control and dominance over the corporation that it becomes a mere shell or ‘alter ego’ of the parent for accomplishing improper purposes…Defendant argues ‘no facts exist to support Plaintiff’s newly proposed theories of vicarious liability. However, the facts…demonstrate the potential for an alter ego theory of liability”.
“Plaintiff also argues that Defendant Marriott may be liable under a theory of ‘apparent authority’ or ‘apparent agency’ which is to say that, even if Marriott International did not actually control the condition that caused her injury, it should still be liable for creating the impression that Hotel guests were actually ‘dealing with’ Defendant Marriott International. Rather than put forward its own arguments as to why this amendment would be futile, Defendant merely distinguishes cases Plaintiff offered in her response to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss…Plaintiffs have made allegations that could potentially establish that Defendant Marriott International held Erawan or LHR out as its agent and that Plaintiff reasonably believed the statements”.
Washington State Law
“Washington courts have approved the Restatement’s view of the doctrine of apparent authority (which states that) ‘[o]ne who represents that another is his servant or other agent and thereby causes a third person justifiably to rely upon the care or skill of such apparent agent is subject to liability to the third person for harm caused by the lack of care or skill of the one appearing to be a servant or other agent as if he were such’ Restatement (Second) of Agency Section 267. The doctrine of apparent agency can attach liability even though no express agency relationship exists (citing Sims v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., 184F. Supp. 2d 616, 617 (W.D. Ky. 2001)). Thus, in order to recover under the theory of apparent agency, Plaintiff must show that she subjectively believed that Erawan or LHR was an agent of Marriott International and that her subjective belief was objectively reasonable. She must also show that her good-faith reasonable belief is attributable to actions taken by the purported principal”.
The Crinkley Case
“For example, in Crinkley v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 844 F. 2d 156, 167 (4th Cir. 1988), the Fourth Circuit found a motel franchisor could be liable for injuries to guests assaulted on the premises under an apparent agency theory. The Court pointed to several significant facts: (1) the franchisor retained significant control over the operations of the motel under the franchise agreement, including the use of its trade name and trademarks, which appeared on numerous items in and about the motel; (2) the motel was originally designed and built by the franchisor; (3) the franchisor’s national advertising promotions failed to distinguish between company-owned and franchised property; and (4) the means through which the injured guests learned of the motel at which they were assaulted also failed to distinguish between company-owned and franchised properties”.
The Stenlund Case
Another example is “Stenlund v. Marriott International, Inc., 172 F. Supp. 3d 874 (D. Md. 2016)(wherein) a guest at the Panama City Marriott Hotel in Panama tripped and sustained injuries in the Hotel’s ‘on-site’ casino. Defendant Marriott International had signed a contract with Hotel Properties of Panama, Inc., which was to build and then own the Hotel. Defendant’s foreign subsidiary operated the Hotel. When the Hotel owner decided to open a casino adjacent to the Hotel the operating agreement between the owner and operator was amended to specify that the Casino ‘is deemed to be separate from and not part of, the Hotel The Court decided that the fact that the casino…was promoted and marketed as being hotel franchisor’s ‘on-site’ casino was insufficient to hold Defendant Marriott International liable on apparent agency theory…(In addition) casino employees wore different uniforms than hotel employees that did not bear the hotel name, exterior entrance to casino was distinct from hotel entrance and casino did not use any of hotel’s trademarks or its trade name except for the sole purpose of indicating casino’s location”.
“Plaintiff argues that ‘[b]ecause of the name and the way in which business is managed and operated, customers are led to believe they are dealing with the more well-known company. Just as ‘the denial of an agent relationship in a franchise agreement is not alone determinative of liability’. Defendant’s denial of an agency relationship because ‘Marriott was not a party to the management agreement executed between Erawan and LHR related to the management and operation of the subject hotel, nor was Marriott involved in directing LHR’s day to day business functions’, does not preclude Plaintiff’s claim. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s apparent agency theory against Defendant is more than sufficient at this stage of litigation”.
The author, Thomas A. Dickerson, is a retired Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department of the New York State Supreme Court and has been writing about Travel Law for 41 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016), Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016) and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at nycourts.gov/courts/9jd/taxcertatd.shtml. For additional travel law news and developments, especially, in the member states of the EU see IFTTA.org
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