The company best known for being the original source of the Hilton family fortune is now an international, publicly traded hospitality corporation, with over 7,000 locations around the world.
Like just about any company of its size, Hilton sometimes fails to live up to its responsibilities to public safety, and the safety of its guests in particular.
Below, we’ll go into common reasons why you might need to sue Hilton. If at any point you would prefer to speak directly with a lawyer in Georgia about your specific case, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.
Hotels Are Responsible for Maintaining Reasonably Hazard-Free Premises
Every business that welcomes guests onto its physical premises is responsible for anticipating any dangers guests might encounter there. On an ongoing basis, the business must eliminate or reduce those dangers as much as reasonably possible, and warn guests about any remaining risks.
If a guest is injured in a predictable, preventable way on the premises, the business is liable.
When people think about preventable injuries at hotels, the first scenarios to come to mind are usually impact-related injuries, such as a guest slipping on a wet floor, or having a piece of furniture fall on them.
These are certainly valid examples, and they do happen on Hilton properties. Back in 2018, a woman suffered a broken hand after a set of electronic blinds fell on her, allegedly due to an incorrect installation in her Philadelphia Hilton hotel room.
Such accidents are just one part of a much wider range of hotel-related dangers, however.
Other common types of hotel accidents include:
- Drownings — Many hotels provide swimming pools with no lifeguards. Fatalities most often occur when small children sneak into unsecured pool areas, or when a family member supervising a swimming child becomes distracted, even briefly. At least two fatal child drownings have happened on U.S. Hilton properties in the past decade, one in Michigan in 2017, and one in Virginia in 2023.
- Fires — Hotel fires are alarmingly common, and owners have a duty, not just to prevent them when possible, but to prepare for quick, safe, full evacuations when necessary. Hilton properties have weathered several fires in the past year alone, usually without injuries, but one person was hospitalized in July following a Hilton fire in Largo, Florida.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning — CO is an invisible, odorless, and deadly gas. It can enter hotel rooms from attached parking garages or malfunctioning fuel-burning systems. Back in November of 2019, a couple staying at the Hilton-run Waldorf Astoria hotel in Chicago began experiencing common symptoms of CO poisoning before bed, and then were woken in the night by a CO detector. According to the couple’s account, they called for help, and an engineer told them this “happens every night” due to CO buildup in the room, and that they should just leave their door cracked open.
If you have been injured in an accident at a Hilton, you should absolutely have someone in your corner, investigating what allowed your accident to happen, and what Hilton could have done to prevent it.
Providing Appropriate Security Is a Part of Running a Safe Hotel
Not all hotel injuries and deaths are accidental.
Within the past year alone, Hilton guests in the U.S have been caught up in more than a few violent altercations:
- In May of 2023, a man armed with both a rifle and a handgun reportedly “ambushed” and shot a guest and a valet at the Hilton in Saint Petersburg, Florida, and attempted to shoot another guest as well. Thankfully, everyone survived, in spite of the first guest being shot twice in the face. A suspect was arrested.
- In July, a 17-year-old boy was shot at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He survived. Police have not made any arrests for his shooting, although they did arrest an associate of the boy, who apparently also fired a shot as part of the same incident. It’s not clear who fired first.
- In August, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a man was discovered in the parking lot of a Hilton, suffering from a gunshot wound.
- In September, here in Georgia, another guest was nonfatally shot while staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Perimeter Center.
- In December, a woman killed a man by shooting him three times in the chest inside the Hilton Suites in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.
- That same month, a man was shot twice in the parking structure of a Hilton in San Diego, California.
- On New Year’s Day of 2024, an 18-year-old woman was shot to death on the eighth floor of a Hilton in DC. This happened at around 1 o’clock on the morning, giving it the dubious distinction of DC’s first recorded homicide of the year. A male suspect was recorded on camera leaving the hotel, but has not been caught.
When someone deliberately inflicts harm on a hotel guest, it’s easy to fixate exclusively on the individual who committed the violent act, and dismiss the hotel as little more than a backdrop.
A hotel’s security policies can actually have a huge impact on how likely its guests are to fall victim to a violent crime, however. Crime tends to cluster and recur around properties where anonymity is easy to achieve, or where management is known to be indifferent or complicit.
In other words, a shooting at a hotel in a high crime area is about as predictable as a slip-and-fall on a wet floor. Installing security cameras, requiring IDs for check-in, and hiring a guard if necessary, can help protect guests from that predictable risk, just like putting up a caution sign in front of a spill.
Hotels Are Common Settings for Sexual Violence, and Hilton Locations Are Not Immune
Although laws against profiting from sex trafficking stretch back further, the practice of actually holding U.S hotels accountable for their role in sex trafficking only really took off in 2019.
For Hilton, that initial wave of accountability looked something like this:
- During 2019 itself, a woman reported that she had been openly sex trafficked during 2012 and 2013 out of multiple hotels across Oregon and Washington, including at least one Hilton property.
- That same year, a 16-year-old girl reported being brought repeatedly to the Hampton Inn Las Vegas (a Hilton brand), for sex trafficking purposes. A subsequent investigation would reveal that she had once texted her trafficker to say that she was afraid of the way the receptionist was staring at her. Yet, apparently, none of the staff ever tried to talk to her, or intervene in any way.
- In 2020, two more women came forward to name 22 separate hotels in the Naples, Florida area which, they said, had allowed them to be sex trafficked openly on their properties. One of them was another Hampton by Hilton location.
- In 2021, police arrested a man and woman, after finding evidence that the woman had been pimping underage girls to the man out of a DoubleTree by Hilton in Norwalk, Connecticut. The man had several past convictions, including rape of a victim under 11 years old.
To Hilton’s credit, the staff of the Norwalk DoubleTree had actually called the police a year before the arrest. They reported that the man in question had rented rooms with them seven times in two months, each time escorting a different young girl through the lobby. There was no decisive response from law enforcement at that time.
However, it should be noted that Hilton continued accepting (and profiting from) that man’s room reservations in spite of the staff’s suspicions, and other disturbing incidents have continued to come to light, some as recent as last year.
In spring of 2023, a man posing as the CEO of a nonexistent company flew a woman to Dallas, Texas, under the pretense of an in-person job interview, and gave her the key to a Hilton hotel room. While she was staying there, some men barged into her room, claimed it was a mistake, and left. Suspecting something wrong, the woman examined her room and discovered a hidden camera in her alarm clock.
Around that same time, in Nashville, Tennessee, a man reported waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning in his Hilton hotel room to find the hotel’s own night manager touching him inappropriately.
If you have also been sexually victimized in a Hilton hotel room, there’s a good chance you’re owed compensation, regardless of whether the staff actively participated or simply ignored the signs.
Franchise Law Insulates the Hilton Company from Some, but Not All, Liability
The basic test of whether a business is liable for a guest’s injuries is simple. It’s just three questions:
- Was the guest harmed in some way?
- Could that harm have been foreseen?
- Was there some reasonable precaution the business chose not to take, which could have prevented the harm from taking place? Unfortunately for accident and crime survivors, however, franchise-based structures of ownership add an additional question into the mix:
- Which business, exactly, was responsible for taking those necessary precautions?
Establishing the answer to this last question can be one of the trickiest hurdles on the way to claiming compensation from a hospitality giant like Hilton.
Like a lot of large hotel chains, Hilton franchises many of its locations. What this means is that a local, smaller business (the franchisee) technically owns and operates the individual hotel, while Hilton (the franchisor) collects a fee for providing branded materials and instructions on how to meet the brand’s quality standards.
When something bad happens on the premises of a franchised business, the franchisor will typically argue that the franchisee is responsible for all of the location’s day-to-day operations, and their consequences.
Essentially, the franchisor gets to profit from a vast network of locations, while taking almost no responsibility for them.
This argument doesn’t always hold up in court, however. Sex trafficking law, in particular, places the responsibility for trafficking on every entity that knowingly harbors or profits from it, and there are precedents for including franchisors within that net.
Even in cases involving other accidents and crimes, franchisors can be held liable if their instructions to their franchisees actively made the problem worse.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured or Lost a Loved One at a Hilton
Even if you were harmed at a Hilton hotel years ago, it’s always worth checking with a lawyer to see what options are still open to you. However, faster action does increase your odds of collecting thorough compensation.
Immediately after an incident occurs, try to follow these steps as closely as possible:
- Get to safety. If there’s an ongoing threat, such as a fire or an active shooter, remove yourself from the situation at the first opportunity and call for help.
- Get medical care. Allow paramedics to examine you at the scene if applicable, or schedule an exam for yourself at your earliest convenience. This will help set you up for the best possible physical recovery, and also create a documented timeline of your condition.
- Preserve the evidence. Images of the incident site, reservation confirmations, medical records — any documentation of the incident or its consequences that comes into your possession, hang on to it.
- Find a lawyer. Ideally, this should be someone local, with plenty of experience in cases similar to yours.
The Stoddard Firm has expertise in premises liability, personal injury, wrongful death, innkeeper laws, sex trafficking law, and franchise law. We’re committed to holding powerful companies accountable for putting profits above the safety of innocent people, and to securing the best possible settlements for our clients.
If you have been harmed or lost a loved one due to an accident or crime at a Hilton hotel in Georgia, reach out to the Stoddard Firm at 678-RESULTS, or through our online chat function, to discuss your case in a free consultation.