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State’s High Court Revives Negligent Security Lawsuit Against Hotel

In an unpublished order by the Supreme Court of Nevada, the Court reversed a district court ruling granting summary judgment in a negligence action against The Orleans Hotel and Casino (“The Orleans”), after the hotel allegedly failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the plaintiff from being the victim of criminal conduct.

In Smith v. Coast Hotels and Casinos, Inc., the plaintiff was a guest at The Orleans when he became a victim of an alleged “trick-roll” during his stay. Shortly after the plaintiff invited two new female acquaintances to his hotel room, one of the acquaintances left the room, and returned with another person, alleged to be that acquaintance’s pimp. The alleged pimp then robbed and shot the plaintiff.

The plaintiff sued The Orleans, claiming that the hotel acted negligently when it allowed the acquaintance and her pimp to pass the key watch stand, which was in place to prevent non-guests of the hotel from entering the guest room tower without showing a key card, without proper authorization and thus gain access to the plaintiff’s hotel room. The plaintiff further alleged that the hotel failed to follow its own policies and procedures, and introduced evidence from The Orleans’ security officers stating that the hotel was well aware of these frequent crimes and implemented this key watch stand to “protect from crimes” and “to keep the riffraff out.”

The Orleans moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted it, concluding that “no admissible evidence had been presented that established that The Orleans had knowledge of prior similar intentional criminal acts. The Orleans took basic minimum precautions to prevent criminal conduct, and the actions of [the pimp] and the woman did not establish a breach of duty by the hotel.”

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Nevada considered whether The Orleans breached any duty of care owed to the plaintiff as a guest of the hotel. Noting that a wrongful act is not foreseeable unless “the owner fails to exercise due care, or similar prior incidents occurred on the premises and the owner had notice or knowledge of those incidents,” the Court found evidence in the record that showed that the hotel had prior knowledge and was on notice that “trick-rolls” and violent crimes were occurring within the casino and hotel towers. Additionally, the evidence indicated that the hotel’s security staff had notice of and acknowledged their duty to keep non-guests from reaching certain parts of the hotel, and to generally protect the safety of its guests. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s entry of summary judgment, thereby reviving the plaintiff’s case of negligent security against the hotel, and remanded the case for further proceedings.