August 13, 2009

Lawyers May Win, Client Already Lost

A woman is raped at gunpoint in the garage of the Stamford, CT Marriott hotel, in front of her children, and sues the hotel for "more than $15,000."

The hotel's response is that in effect, it's the victim's fault, and not theirs:
"(The victim) failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities."
As incendiary as that statement is, it's also possible the hotel is not at fault. The victim claims the attacker had been seen lurking around the hotel. Whether she can prove negligence is an open matter.

However, the legal response to her suit has likely caused this Marriott and the Marriott chain more in lost business than a settlement would have, both because the response will offend many customers, and it caused the unsettling incident itself to be retold in newspapers and online.

There are good reasons why Marriott might not want to settle, but from a public relations POV they should have defended only on the point that the victim can't prove negligence.

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