No summary judgment for hotel in peeping tom case

You read that headline correctly. This case is about voyeurism. In a Spokane hotel.

Here are the facts, per Judge Mendoza’s order:

Plaintiff and one of her direct supervisors, Jason Pedigo, traveled to Spokane, Washington on a business trip in July 2016. They stayed at the Courtyard Spokane Downtown at the Convention Center. Pedigo successfully used a Ryobi scope to spy on Plaintiff by sticking it underneath a connector door between their rooms.

The plaintiff brought claims against her supervisor and the hotel. The supervisor wisely settled. The hotel did not.

The plaintiff’s claim against the hotel was for negligence. Her theory was that the hotel breached a duty to protect her from reasonably foreseeable peeping by the occupant of an adjoining room. The hotel moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not owe the plaintiff such a duty.

Judge Mendoza denied the motion and sent the case to trial. In his view, the duty question came down to whether the hotel should have foreseen that a guest might try to spy on a female occupant of an adjoining room. Here is what he had to say:

Defendants point to testimony of its employees indicating that they have never heard of a scope being placed underneath connecting doors and that there have not been any complaints of voyeurism, especially through a connecting door. But that takes too literal of a position on foreseeability, as foreseeability may be determined by extrinsic considerations.

Here, Plaintiff’s expert points to the case of Andrews v. West End Hotel Partners, LLC et al., involving a voyeurism incident where a guest was spied on through an altered peep hole. Plaintiff’s expert also opines that voyeurisms are well known and entirely foreseeable to hotel operators.

Plaintiff further points to the fact that the hotel had an informal policy of informing guests who will be placed in connecting rooms upon check-in, to allow either guest to opt out. . . .

Having reviewed the briefs and the record, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has raised a genuine dispute about the foreseeable range of danger.

Will the case settle before trial? It will be interesting to see. On one hand, the facts are pretty horrific. Every juror will rightly sympathize with the plaintiff. On the other hand, the hotel doesn’t seem particularly blameworthy. Perhaps it could have done more to anticipate this type of antisocial behavior by a guest. But did it have a legal duty to do so?

Tough call.

The case is Rechael Driver v. Courtyard Spokane Downtown at the Convention Center, et al., Case No. 17-CV-0303-SMJ. A copy of Judge Mendoza’s order denying the hotel’s motion for summary judgment can be found here.

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