If you’ve been in an accident or altercation at a Holiday Inn and are wondering about your rights, start by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Did I suffer harm as a result of the incident?
  2. Is there any way the hotel’s management could have predicted the incident?
  3. Were there reasonable, relevant options for improving safety that the hotel chose to pass up?

If the answer to all three is “yes,” there’s a good chance you’re owed compensation, even if someone other than the hotel’s management played a role in your injuries.

Below, we’ll go over the most common reasons you might need to sue a Holiday Inn, the challenges of doing so, and how we can help. If at any time you’d prefer to speak directly with a lawyer, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.

Hotels Are Responsible for Creating Fire-Safe Premises, Even in Cases of Arson

The infamous Holiday Inn fire of 1978 is an excellent example of how much hotel safety depends on the hotel’s owner, even when there may be other responsible parties involved as well.

That fire took place in Greece, New York, and reportedly started in or near a closet that held cleaning products and paper goods. It spread quickly through the building, killing 10 people and injuring 34 others. The fire was investigated as suspected arson, and five persons of interest were named, but no arrests were ever made. Nearly 50 years later, the local police department and District Attorney’s office still disagree on the number of possible suspects, and even whether the evidence of arson was truly conclusive.

The investigation did make a few concrete and damning discoveries, however:

  • The hotel lacked self-closing fire doors
  • The staircases were decorated with flammable plywood paneling
  • The whole hotel had a single fire alarm, which could not be heard clearly from all areas of the building
  • The alarm did not automatically contact the fire department

Without these failures on the hotel’s part, the guests might well have survived unscathed, regardless of whether the fire was intentionally set or not. Unfortunately, in the search for a criminal culprit, the Holiday Inn’s culpability went largely unaddressed.

Fire safety standards have thankfully improved since the ’70s, both on paper and in practice, but fires continue to be a serious danger for hotel guests in general and Holiday Inn guests specifically.

In the past five years, Holiday Inns have had two other instances of suspected arson, one in England and one in Tennessee. Neither one caused any deaths, although one person did need to be rescued from a smoke-filled room.

There have also been at least two accidental fires sparked by amenities the hotel owner is responsible for maintaining — a sauna in England and an air conditioner in Missouri.

Hotels know that these kinds of incidents are an ever-present threat. They have a responsibility not only to prevent them where possible, but to make it easy for their guests to escape in emergencies, with proper fireproofing, alarms, and exit routes.

Holiday Inn Pools Have Been the Site of Several Child Drownings

Providing swimming pools as amenities and leaving guests in charge of their own safety, without the support of professional lifeguards, is a common practice throughout the hospitality industry. The dangers of unguarded pools are well established — people die under these conditions every year, most of them children — and hotels in general should arguably know better by now.

Holiday Inns have a particularly troubling record of pool drownings, however, in terms of both numbers, and the details of certain incidents.

For example, in July of 2020, an 8-year-old boy with autism drowned in the pool of the Holiday Inn in Strongsville, Ohio. His family called the police, reporting that he had somehow gone missing during supervised swimming time with his uncle. Multiple people searched the pool, including the boy’s mother and a police officer, who then recommended concentrating the search elsewhere. Almost nine hours into the search, the boy’s body was discovered at the bottom of the pool. Apparently, the water was so murky that he could not be seen. As it turned out, the pool had received at least six critical health violations within the past five years of inspections.

Two years later, a father and son entered the pool area of a Holiday Inn in Nova Scotia, Canada, and discovered a 7-year-old girl drowning in the water. The girl would later die of her injuries under hospital care. She had been staying at the inn under the care of Mi’kmaw Family and Children Services at the time. Her mother, who was working to regain custody, had specifically asked that she not be taken swimming. The family spent months unsuccessfully demanding details of the events that led to the child’s death.

This year, here in Georgia, Fire and Rescue services were called to respond to a drowning at the Holiday Inn on Crescent Center Blvd in Tucker. When they arrived, the 12-year-old victim in question was still in the pool. Apparently, no one at the inn had attempted CPR or even removed her from the water after discovering her.

Over the course of this decade so far, at least three other Holiday Inn guests have also suffered fatal drownings during their stays, including a 6-year-old boy in Minnesota, another child in New Zealand, and a 50-year-old man in Arkansas, who reportedly hit his head on the side of the pool. A child was also hospitalized in Ohio in serious condition after a near-drowning incident.

If you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one at a Holiday Inn swimming pool, there’s a good chance it was more than a freak accident. It may have been the result of an unreasonably unsafe swimming environment.

Holiday Inns Have Repeatedly Failed to Protect Guests from Violence

Arson isn’t the only form of crime that hotels have a duty to anticipate. More direct forms of violence can also be predicted when they form patterns. If a hotel or the area around it has a history of violence, the hotel is responsible for providing security proportionate to the danger.

In 2023 alone, there have been at least five murders and one attempted murder in the parking lots of Holiday Inns in the U.S.

In the case of the attempted murder, the victim was a refugee being housed at the Holiday Inn in Queens, New York. The attacker worked for inn’s security contractor, and had been fired earlier that same day following a violent altercation with the victim. He returned in the evening with a gun and shot at the victim, but missed.

The other incidents included a murder suicide in Denver, Colorado, a double murder suicide in Annapolis, Maryland, a suspected armed robbery in Florence, South Carolina, and a man stabbing and running over his elderly mother in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Failing to provide needed security in the parking area of a property is a form of premises liability. Arguably even more disturbing, however, is the way certain Holiday Inns have treated the security of their guests in areas where they should have the very highest expectations of safety.

The absolute most basic security measure a hotel can provide, and one of the only measures explicitly required by law, is a working lock on every guest room door. These locks are useless, however, if the staff also provides copies of the keys to anyone who asks, which is exactly what seems to have happened in a shocking number of recent sexual assault cases at hotels.

Specifically, in December of 2022, a woman reported waking up in the middle of the night in her room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Gonzalez, Texas, to discover an unknown man standing at the foot of her bed, with his pants off and a condom in hand. She managed to chase him out of the room and called the front desk attendant, who confessed to having given him a key to her room.

It’s easy to end up focusing solely on the perpetrator’s guilt after a violent crime, but if you’ve been victimized at a Holiday Inn, don’t ignore the hotel’s responsibility for your safety when planning your pursuit of justice.

Multiple Types of Alleged Human Trafficking Have Come to Light at Holiday Inns

Unfortunately, there’s one possible reason, other than incompetence, why hotel staff might be giving out women’s room keys without permission.

Sex trafficking is a serious problem throughout the hospitality industry, and Holiday Inns are no exception. In May of 2021, the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force of the Missouri Attorney General’s office coordinated with several other local agencies to perform a raid on the Holiday Inn in Columbia, Missouri. They were able to make two arrests and rescue nine individuals who were apparently being held at the hotel for commercial sex purposes. Two of them were children.

Hotels that know (or should know) about sex trafficking on their premises and do nothing to stop it are fully liable for the harm caused to the trafficking victims. Unfortunately, sex trafficking is so lucrative that many hotels still choose to ignore it, or even actively participate in it.

Staff who have been well trained to spot and prevent human trafficking would probably not hand out guest room keys upon request. Staff who have been trained to discreetly assist with selling access to trafficking victims, on the other hand, might consider such a request to be business as usual.

While forced commercial sex is the most common form of human trafficking in the U.S, there’s also a significant criminal industry surrounding forced nonsexual labor. Holiday Inns have been accused of participating in both forms of human trafficking over the years.

Claimants in a 2019 class-action lawsuit reported that a Holiday Inn in Oklahoma lured them from overseas with promises of well-paying jobs, but then violated minimum wage laws, told them they were in debt to the company for “recruitment fees,” and physically intimidated them if they tried to leave. All of these are classic labor trafficking techniques.

If you have been coerced into any form of work or sexual activity at a Holiday Inn, you’re very likely owed compensation.

The Stoddard Firm Has the Expertise in Franchise Law Necessary to Take on Holiday Inn

One of the biggest obstacles to suing Holiday Inn is the franchise structure of its ownership and management.

The Holiday Inn brand is the property of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), but individual Holiday Inns are typically owned by smaller, local businesses, who pay IHG for the use of the brand. Some of these local owners have called out IHG for alleged unfair business practices, including extorting them for “kickbacks” under the guise of renovation costs, and refusing to reimburse them for the cost of promotional offers determined by the IHG.

Meanwhile, IHG, like most franchisors, expects its franchisees to take on all the liability associated with running their individual hotels. Back in 1993, a woman slipped in the shower at a Holiday Inn in Louisiana. She sued Holiday Inn, citing the lack of nonslip safety devices, and was awarded $24,000. However, upon appeal, the court reassigned the liability for her accident to the local franchise owner.

In short, franchise contracts tend to concentrate liability at the local level, while siphoning profits away to the central brand owner. This makes it quite challenging to hold Holiday Inn responsible for what happens in its hotels, and for victims to get the full settlements they need.

The Stoddard Firm specializes in fighting for corporate accountability, while getting our clients the best possible results in legally complex cases. In addition to franchise law, and the innkeeper laws that protect hotels, we’re experts in personal injury, wrongful death, premises liability, and negligent security.

To discuss your case against Holiday Inn directly with a lawyer in the Atlanta area, reach out any time at 678-RESULTS or through our online chat function.

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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