The plaintiff, a 73-year-old, retired Massachusetts man, suffered an intertrochant eric fracture of his left hip after a fall on a stone patio at the defendant’s resort hotel in Aruba.
The plaintiff and his wife were guests at the defendant’s resort hotel in Oranjestad, Aruba. The plaintiff had been sitting in direct sun beside the hotel’s pool when he decided to move his chair a short distance to a shaded area of the patio located nearby. As the plaintiff moved his chair a distance of approximately five feet, he suddenly felt himself fall to the ground. The fall caused him to injure his left hip.
An examination of the area where the plaintiff was injured showed that the patio consisted of an upper and lower level, separated by a distance of approximately 20 inches in height. A series of holes, which had been rifled with cement, disclosed the previous location of a rope barrier that had been supported by evenly spaced stanchions. This rope barrier had been put in place to prevent guests from falling. However, the barrier and stanchions were not present when the plaintiff was injured because they had been removed by hotel management in preparation for the installation of a new barrier system. Even though the rope barriers were removed at the time of the incident, no interim barrier system had been installed to prevent hotel guests such as the plaintiff from falling to the lower level of the patio. The plaintiff’s theory of liability was confirmed by comparing photographs of the area at the time of the incident with photographs of the patio that had been taken by the plaintiff during a stay at the hotel one year earlier. The photographs from the plaintiff’s prior stay at the hotel clearly showed the stanchion and rope barrier in place to protect guests from falling.
The plaintiff brought suit against the hotel’s owner, a Dutch corporation, and the hotel’s Massachusetts-based management company. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants were negligent in removing the rope barrier and failing to warn guests, including the plaintiff, of the sudden change in elevation on the patio. The plaintiff further alleged that the uniformity in tile pattern between the upper and lower levels of the patio made it extremely difficult for the plaintiff to observe the sudden change in elevation without the protective barrier. The plaintiff was awarded $300,000 in compensation.
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