A survivor of a brutal rape and beating recently prevailed in her South Florida sexual assault lawsuit against the Miami hotel where the attack occurred and its security company, settling for $16 million for their failure to protect her.
According to Local 10 News, 67-year-old woman, a tourist who was staying at the hotel with her husband last July, was beaten, strangled, choked, and forced to perform oral sex on her 22-year-old attacker in a vicious assault that took place in an open hallway and elevator. (The husband, also, was apparently beaten, pushed to the ground, and bitten by the man.) Despite her repeated screams and cries, none of the hotel staffers intervened. The man then reportedly tried to rape the woman, but was finally stopped when Miami-Dade police officers arrived on scene and arrested him. The attack left the victim with life-threatening injuries, including brain bleeding, collapsed lungs, broken ribs, and traumatic brain injury. After she was discovered, she was rushed to the hospital, where she underwent an 8-hour surgery to save her life.
The alleged attacker is still facing charges of sexual battery, felony battery, assault, and kidnapping.
As our South Florida sexual assault lawyers understand, the investigation into the liability of both the hotel and the security company revealed fairly damning evidence. The beating and sexual assault reportedly took place in the middle of an open hallway for 10 full minutes.
Although the hotel and security company deny any wrongdoing, the latter agreed to settle her claims for $5 million and the former for $11 million, respectively. In the aftermath of the incident, both the hotel and the security company have made improvements to security policy and procedure.
How Can a Hotel or Other Third Parties be Liable for Rape?
It’s not clear from news reports whether the attacker was a guest at the hotel, an employee, or a trespasser. There likely is no evidence that the third-party defendants (hotel and security company) had any prior knowledge of the defendant’s intent or intentionally helped him to carry out his alleged crimes. So how is that they can be held legally responsible?
It comes down to the legal duty that these third parties owed to the victim to keep her safe while she was on their property. Florida premises liability laws imbue property owners and managers with the legal duty to ensure their site is reasonably safe for guests – particularly if there is foreseeable danger about which unsuspecting guests may be unaware. What may be deemed “reasonably safe” or “foreseeable danger” may vary from case-to-case, but in general, 10 minutes of a violent, uninterrupted assault in a common area is likely to qualify as an unreasonable safety risk.
Hotels and motels owe an especially high duty to paying guests because they are business invitees. If that duty of care is breached and that breach is the cause of a sexual assault (or exacerbates the severity of an assault), the victim may seek financial compensation for the harm they suffered. It doesn’t change what happened, but as this case showed, it can compel businesses to change their policies to make it less likely someone else will endure similar trauma.
Other possible damages one may pursue:
- Cost of medical and rehabilitative costs, including therapy, medications, etc.
- Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering and emotional distress. Many survivors of sexual assault suffer PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders.
- Economic damages, such as wage losses.
- Loss of consortium. (This is a claim filed by the spouse of the person who was directly impacted.)
If you have questions about a potential South Florida sexual assault or sexual abuse claim, our Palm Beach civil trial attorneys can help.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Victim of brutal Rodeway Inn rape speaks following $16M settlement, July 12, 2022, By Liane Morejon, Local 10 News
More Blog Entries:
Southern Baptists Admit Decades of Sex Abuse, Cover-Ups, June 7, 2022, South Florida Sexual Assault Lawyer Blog