Hotel evicting a drunk guest must exercise reasonable care, the Colorado Supreme Court holds

Westin Operator, LLC v. Groh, No. 13SC382 (Colo. Apr. 13, 2015).

The Denver Westin

The Denver Westin

After a night of clubbing, Jillian Groh and a handful of her friends returned to Groh’s room at the Denver Westin, where the partying continued. A Westin security guard got into an argument with some of Groh’s friends, and, at about three in the morning, the Westin threw everybody out. A member of Groh’s party told the guard that they couldn’t leave because they were drunk and couldn’t drive. But security escorted everybody outdoors into the freezing March night and blocked the door to re-entry. Seven people loaded into Groh’s PT Cruiser, which got onto the road and rear-ended another car. One passenger in the PT Cruiser died. Others sustained serious injuries. Groh herself was left in a persistent vegetative state. Groh sued Westin for negligence.

The question before the Colorado Supreme Court is whether a hotel that evicts an intoxicated guest owes some kind of duty to that guest. The court decides that a hotel owes an intoxicated guest a duty to exercise reasonable care when evicting the guest into a foreseeably dangerous environment. Whether a hotel has satisfied that duty depends on how drunk the guest is, how likely it is that the guest is going to drive, and how much danger the weather poses (among other things). And whether a hotel is actually liable to the guest also depends on whether the eviction can be said to have caused the crash—and on the degree of the guest’s comparative fault.  

Here, the court says, there are genuine questions of material fact on all of these issues, so it remands the case back to the trial court.