A stay at the Comfort Inn, any Comfort Inn, should ideally be as comfortable as the name suggests. Failing that, however, it should at least be safe.

Motels have a duty to anticipate threats to their guests and take reasonable steps to address them. If they don’t, they’re liable for the consequences.

Below, we’ll go over common reasons you might need to sue Comfort Inn and what to expect along the way. If at any point you would prefer to speak directly with a lawyer about your potential lawsuit against Comfort Inn, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.

Overcrowding, Lack of Supervision, and Poor Maintenance Make Swimming Pools Deadly

Every summer, awareness campaigns target parents with dire warnings about how suddenly and easily children can accidentally drown in swimming pools. These warnings are thoroughly warranted — fatal accidents can happen during even the briefest lapse in supervision — but rarely are they aimed at the hotels that provide families with these hazardous recreational facilities, often with very little safety support.

In March of 2014, a 5-year-old boy drowned in the pool of the Comfort Inn in Louisville, Kentucky. This happened during a birthday party, while the boy was surrounded by 12 other swimmers and 20 more people gathered around the edge of the pool. One of them was his mother, who reportedly lost track of him when he got out of the pool, ran to the deep end, and jumped back in. There was no lifeguard present. Worse, the water was too cloudy for onlookers to see the bottom. When the boy’s family found his body, they were searching by feel alone.

Less than a year later, an almost identical accident took the life of a 7-year-old boy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was also attending a birthday pool party at a Comfort Inn, when he slipped and hit his head while trying to do a cannonball. Security footage shows that he fell into the water, struggled visibly for a while, and then sank to the bottom, where he went unnoticed for five minutes. There were approximately 15 other children and 10 adults present at the time.

While unsupervised or under-supervised children are at the greatest risk from accidental pool drownings, unguarded pools can be dangerous for adults too. In July of 2023, a man had a heart attack while teaching his children to swim at a Comfort Inn in Wilkins Township, Pennsylvania. His fiancée was there with him, but by the time she had gotten the children out of the water and summoned help, the man had already been underwater for seven minutes and suffered irreversible brain damage. His mother would later report that he had chosen the Comfort Inn pool, expecting it to be a controlled environment. In reality, it had no lifeguard, and no defibrillator onsite.

Any time an accident like this happens on hotel property, it warrants investigation into whether the hotel is doing all it can to keep guests safe.

Comfort Inns Must Protect Guests from Both Accidental and Intentional Fires

Some fire ignition sources are within a hotel owner’s control, such as electrical and gas appliance malfunctions. Others are not, such as guest smoking accidents or arson attempts.

Regardless of how a fire starts, however, the hotel must have systems in place to contain and extinguish it, or at least to evacuate the guests quickly and safely. Hotels that are poorly prepared to deal with fires are liable for the resulting harm to guests.

For example, in June of 2021, a fire started just outside of a Comfort Inn in Hazelwood, Missouri, probably from a discarded cigarette. The flames were able to climb the building take hold in the attic.

Then, two years later, the exact same thing happened at a Comfort Inn in Lufkin, Texas.

In both cases, it was presumably a guest who lit and dropped the cigarette, but the inn apparently had a common building flaw, which allowed the fire to spread quickly upward through the empty cavity in the outer wall.

Comfort Inns have also faced several recent arson attempts.

In November of 2022, a man was caught on camera bringing a hay bale into the lobby of the Comfort Inn in Van Wert, Ohio and setting it on fire. Three months later, in Davenport, Iowa, another man confessed to setting fire to his bed in a local Comfort Inn. Three more months after that, a fire started in the stairwell of a Comfort Inn in Bennet, Colorado, which investigators found had been intentionally set.

To the credit of the inns, all three intentional fires were easily contained and extinguished, thanks to good fireproofing and/or sprinklers.

Decidedly not to the credit of Comfort Inn, however, the arsonist in the Colorado case turned out to be the inn’s own night manager.

Survivors and first responders have also shared some disturbing accounts of other Comfort Inn fires.

In 2022, a 12-year-old who survived a Comfort Inn fire in Irving, Texas reported that he and his mother nearly died because the hotel’s emergency exits were locked from the outside. They had to wait for an employee to come unlock them.

Then, this past June, firefighters working to extinguish a one-room fire at a Comfort Inn in Monticello, Virginia were surprised to discover a second fire burning in a storage room a floor above. It’s not clear whether the fire spread in an unusual way, or whether someone or something created multiple dangerous ignitions in one day.

Comfort Inns Have an Inconsistent Record When It Comes to Handling Crime

Just as hotels need to be ready to protect guests from fires, they also need to be ready to protect them from violence. Exactly what precautions are appropriate depends on the type and frequency of crime in the area.

Some Comfort Inns, like many other hotels, have had issues with gun violence. Within the last year alone, a woman was shot on the third floor of a Comfort Inn in Omaha, Nebraska, a man was shot by the door of his room in a Comfort Inn in New Iberia, Louisiana, and another man was found shot just outside of a Comfort Inn in Seattle, Washington.

All three victims died.

Hotel owners can significantly reduce gun violence on their properties by maintaining surveillance cameras and good lighting in common areas, hiring security guards, and restricting physical access to guest areas.

In the Seattle incident in particular, police noted that the street the hotel was on had consistent issues with crime. This indicates that management should have known that the property had a high need for security.

More tellingly, however, police specified that the area was a hotspot for human trafficking.

Hotels are popular staging grounds for human trafficking operations, particularly sex trafficking. For this reason, hotel owners need to take particular care to make sure sexual exploitation isn’t happening under their roofs. In addition to the precautions against general violence, they can do this by requiring guests to show ID, and training staff to recognize and respond to signs of coercion between guests.

At least a couple of Comfort Inns seem to have handled sex trafficking situations decently. In the past five years, two trafficking survivors, one a 17-year-old girl in Ventura, California, the other a 22-year-old woman in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, successfully escaped their traffickers by alerting Comfort Inn front desk clerks, who relayed their messages to police. The woman had been trafficked through multiple other hotel chains before seizing this chance at the Comfort Inn.

Other incidents don’t reflect so well on the Comfort Inn brand, however.

Within that same time period, police have broken up apparent sex trafficking rings at Comfort Inns in Dallas, Texas, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and in Baltimore, Maryland, all of them involving multiple victims.

In the Baltimore case, an alleged gang leader was controlling an entire floor of the hotel and using it for trafficking purposes. According to the long list of indictments following the raid, the hotel staff had been alerting the gang leaders whenever police approached.

This kind of arrangement is tragically common. Many hotel owners are willing to risk the liability of sex trafficking, to share in the immediate profits.

Franchise Law Adds an Extra Complication to Lawsuits Against Comfort Inn

One of the most challenging steps in any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against Comfort Inn will be proving that Comfort Inn — or rather, its parent company, Choice Hotels — is the appropriate defendant for the case.

This is because all individual Comfort Inn locations are owned by franchisees. Franchisees are separate, usually much smaller businesses that pay Choice Hotels for the use of the Comfort Inn brand and merchandising.

Franchising allows Choice Hotels to profit from a vast network of hotels, while insulating it against most liability for what actually happens in those hotels.

That’s why, when the family of the child who drowned in Kentucky back in 2014 filed a wrongful death suit, the court awarded them $3.1 million, but from the franchisee, not Choice Hotels.

Not a lot has changed on this front over the past decade. Earlier this year, a Comfort Inn in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was sued for multiple labor violations, including hiring two 12-year-olds, putting a 15-year-old in a potentially hazardous kitchen job, paying less than minimum wage, and withholding overtime pay. The court ordered the local owner to pay back wages and damages, while Choice Hotels simply made a statement about expecting all franchisees to follow local laws.

This can be a serious problem for survivors, because it’s not possible to collect funds that a defendant simply doesn’t have, and franchisees typically don’t have the same means as an international corporation like Choice Hotels.

Franchise contracts aren’t an airtight defense, however, especially in cases of human trafficking. Courts have denied Choice Hotel’s motions to dismiss sex trafficking cases against the company, once in Florida in 2019 and once in New York in 2020. And just this year, a woman was awarded a settlement directly from Choice Hotels for its role in her trafficking at a Comfort Inn in Ohio.

Wherever possible, the Stoddard Firm will fight to include franchising corporations, like Choice Hotels, in civil suits. We do this to maximize our clients’ chances at actually collecting a full, fair settlement, and because we believe setting precedents of corporate accountability will help make the world a safer place for everyone.

What to Do If You’ve Been Injured or Lost a Loved One at a Comfort Inn

Immediately after an incident at a Comfort Inn, it’s a good idea to prioritize:

  1. Your safety. If you’re still in harm’s way, focus first on getting someplace safe.
  2. Your health. Seek medical care as soon as possible, and keep following up in any way your healthcare provider recommends.
  3. Your credibility. Don’t speak to Comfort Inn representatives, who might try to trick you into taking blame or otherwise damaging your case on record. Any evidence that comes into your possession relating to your injuries or your stay at the Comfort Inn, collect it in a safe place.
  4. Your representation. As soon as practical, reach out to a lawyer in your area with experience in cases like yours.

The Stoddard Firm is well-versed in franchise law, innkeeper laws, human trafficking law, premises liability, negligent security, personal injury, and wrongful death. We’ll work with you to discover and prove exactly what happened to you or your loved one, what Comfort Inn could have done better to prevent it, and what the likely impact will be on the rest of your life. We’ll fight to get you the best outcome, while making the process as smooth and simple as possible, so that you can start focusing on your own recovery.

Whenever you’re ready to discuss your case with a lawyer in the Atlanta area, just reach out at 678-RESULTS or through our online chat function for a free consultation.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Matt StoddardMatt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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