Posted On: March 22, 2012 by Stephen Bilkis

A couple from New York City checked in a five-star hotel

A couple from New York City checked in a five-star hotel expecting to have a comfortable and luxurious stay after a day’s work but unfortunately, the wife tripped and fell on their hotel room the day they arrived. The wife attributes the accident to the duvet cover being improperly draped on the floor by the hotel's staff, which she claims created a tripping hazard. Her husband brings a derivative claim for loss of services. The Hotel requests to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that there are no issues capable of trial because the couple cannot establish a legitimate case of negligence thus, the Hotel does not owe the couple a duty.
Sources revealed that around six in the morning, the wife checked in as a guest in a Hotel located at Madison Avenue, New York. She checked in at the bell desk and went straight to work without going up to the room. Her husband arrived separately later that evening at around nine in the evening. Upon entering the room, he threw his bag on the floor, turned on the lights, and began reading the New York Times for about 20 to 30 minutes and he did not recall using the bed.

At approximately ten in the evening, the wife returned to the hotel after attending an industry dinner. Her husband was waiting for her in the hotel room and was still reading the newspaper in a chair. The wife recalled that when she entered the room, the bed was made and there was a duvet cover on it. The bed appeared very low to the ground as if the bed frame was missing and the bed was sitting on the floor. She noticed that there was very little lighting in the room, but did not remember where any of the lighting fixtures were located and could not describe any of the other furniture in the room. She went to the bathroom to undress and she walked over to kiss her husband. When walked back towards the bathroom, she allegedly tripped over the duvet cover, which she claims was touching the floor. She fell forward to the wall and floor resulting in alleged injury.

The wife did not notice the duvet cover before she tripped. However, when she looked back to see what caused her to fall she saw a portion of it hanging off the bed and onto the floor. The portion of the duvet cover that was draped onto the floor was bunched up and folded. The wife believes that she tripped over the bunched up portion of the duvet cover because when she looked back directly after her fall, she could clearly see it and also felt that she did not drag the duvet cover off the bed when she fell.

According to reports, the husband saw her wife trip and fall, but he did not know what caused the accident. He saw her trip over the bedding but he did not know whether she tripped on the duvet cover, bed skirt or something else. Nor did he know if the duvet cover was touching the floor. He did not think that the plaintiff tripped over the mattress or bed itself because he would have heard banging against the bed.

Right after the incident, the Director of Housekeeping for the hotel was called to the room of the couple at around ten in the evening. He did not have a chance to thoroughly observe the bed, but he did not believe that the bed was made. The wife reported that she had tripped over the bed skirt, and the Housekeeping Director filled out an incident report noting that the husband had called to report that plaintiff tripped over the bed skirt.

The Housekeeping Director also testified that at the time of the incident, the beds in the hotel's guestrooms were metal bed frames with a box spring and a mattress on top that were of standard height, length and width. The hotel had very high standards and specific design elements, and made sure that its standards were adhered to. The rooms were inspected everyday throughout the day whenever a room was cleaned and after a room was cleaned. When he had the opportunity to inspect the way a bed was made in a particular room, the sheets or covers did not touch the floor if the bed was made. If a bed had been made and a duvet cover was touching the floor, it would not have been up to the standards of the hotel. Prior to the date of the accident, the hotel had never received any complaints from guests about bedding touching the floor, and no guest had ever tripped on bedding or sheets hanging on the floor.

The complaint neither created the condition that caused the accident, nor had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition. The Hotel also argues that the couple cannot establish that a defect even existed, since the allegedly defective condition was open and obvious and not inherently dangerous.

The couple asserts that the condition of the bed was entirely within the Hotel’s control since only the hotel staff was responsible for cleaning the rooms, and that the hotel had exclusive possession of the room prior to their arrival. The couple also contends that the bed was not made fully or was made negligently, thus violating the Hotel's own safety standards.

The Court does not find that the Hotel met its initial burden of demonstrating that it created nor had actual or constructive notice of any hazardous conditions prior to the accident. The couple presented the testimony of the Hotel Staff indicating that the hotel's rooms were inspected daily and throughout the day, and that if a bed was made with the duvet cover touching the floor it would not have been up to the hotel's standards. The Housekeeping Director’s own inspections of the hotel's rooms revealed that the sheets or covers did not touch the floor if the bed was made. When he appeared in the room of the couple following the accident, he recalled that the bed was unmade. He also testified that at no time prior to the accident had the hotel ever received any complaints from guests about bedding touching the floor, and that prior to this incident no guest had ever tripped on bedding or sheets hanging on the floor.


Furthermore, the couple’s allegation that the Hotel had exclusive possession of the room prior to plaintiff's arrival is disproven by the evidence, as it is undisputed that the husband was present in the room alone for at least 30 minutes before his wife returned, nor can the couple establish constructive notice as there is no evidence establishing how long the condition complained of existed, or any testimony of any prior accidents. In order to constitute constructive notice, a defect must be visible and apparent and it must exist for a sufficient length of time prior to the accident to allow the defendant to discover and remedy it.

The Court has also considered the couple’s remaining arguments in opposition to summary judgment, and finds them to lack merit. Accordingly, the Hotel’s motion for dismissing the complaint was granted.

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