Sheraton is one of the largest hotel franchise chains within the Marriott company’s brand portfolio. Like all businesses, Sheraton hotels have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to provide their guests with a safe environment. And like most brands of its size, Sheraton has a less than spotless record of doing so.

Below, we’ll go over some common reasons why you might need to sue a Sheraton hotel. If at any point you would prefer to speak directly with an Atlanta lawyer about your case, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.

Poor Maintenance of Any Part of a Hotel Can Lead to Serious Accidents

Even the most basic components of a physical business can become dangerous if they’re not well designed, made, and taken care of. A floor can easily become a tripping hazard, if it’s cracked or has a raised edge. A window can allow a child to fall from an upper story, if it’s too low to the floor and too easily opened.

More complex features and amenities bring with them their own dangers, which the owner has a duty to manage.

Heaters, boilers, and other appliances that burn a carbon-based fuel, all have the potential to produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide (CO), an invisible, odorless, highly poisonous gas.

A CO leak in the heating system of a Sheraton in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio sent four people to the hospital in May of 2021. Thankfully, the effects of the leak became clear in the late morning, and all of the victims survived. CO poisoning can easily become fatal, especially if it happens during sleeping hours, in rooms not properly equipped with CO detectors.

Far more innocuous-seeming pieces of equipment can also turn hazardous if they’re defective or misused.

In October of 2023, a soda machine tank malfunctioned in an Oklahoma City Sheraton, flooding the first floor with carbon dioxide (CO2). While less toxic than CO, CO2 is also poisonous in large doses, and can kill by displacing the oxygen in a room.

When any part of a hotel is allowed to become a hazard, due to the hotel owner’s lack of care, that owner is liable for the resulting harm to guests.

Unguarded Swimming Pools Are Always Hazardous

Pools, in particular, carry an inherent risk of death and serious injury, a risk which is vastly higher in the absence of professional supervision.

A 17-year-old boy drowned in a Sheraton hotel pool in Saskatoon, Canada, back in November of 2017. He was among family, playing a game that involved hyperventilating and then competing to stay underwater as long as possible. Like most people, the boy’s mother had no idea that this breathing technique can cause a person to lose consciousness and inhale a fatal amount of water, without ever feeling an urgent need to come up for air.

Professionals in pool safety, however, know that hyperventilation can lead to sudden, silent drowning deaths, which is why this practice is banned at supervised facilities like YMCA.

Unfortunately, most hotels, including Sheraton locations, do not employ any lifeguards to teach or enforce these kinds of safety policies.

One of Sheraton’s Largest-Scale Accidents Happened Here in Atlanta

Most hotel premises accidents are small, affecting only one or two people. That’s part of why it’s so easy for safety hazards to go unaddressed for years at a time. Chances are, the people who’ve slipped and fallen on a particularly treacherous bathroom floor will never meet each other to compare notes, and most will blame themselves.

Sometimes, however, one hazard affects so many people in a short time that it becomes impossible to ignore.

Some of the most common examples of large-scale hotel accidents are structure fires and structure collapses — but that’s not what happened here.

In summer of 2019, over the course of several days, guests of the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel were exposed to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Public health officials traced 12 confirmed cases of the illness to the hotel, and nearly fifty more guests reported probable cases. One woman was killed, when the illness aggravated her coronary artery disease.

While there are many serious diseases that can surface and spread unexpectedly wherever people congregate, Legionnaires’ is not one of them.

Legionnaires’ is a form of pneumonia caused by legionella, a bacterial strain which proliferates in warm water, and which enters the lungs through inhaled mist or vapor. It does not spread from person to person, so every individual who contracted the disease had to have been exposed directly to the contaminated, aerosolized water.

Health and safety standards for jacuzzi chemical balances, water heater temperatures, and HVAC system performance are all specifically designed to prevent the growth of bacteria like legionella.

Failure to maintain those standards qualifies as negligence on a hotel’s part.

Adequate Security Is Part of a Hotel’s Safety Obligations

Accidents aren’t the only reason you might need to sue a Sheraton hotel. Unfortunately, negligence can be a lot harder to spot in cases of criminal violence.

After all, when someone gets sick just by breathing the air in a hotel, there’s no one to blame except the hotel, or possibly one of its maintenance contractors.

When someone gets assaulted at a hotel, on the other hand, there’s plenty of blame rightfully directed toward the assailant.

Does the assailant’s guilt mean that the hotel is in the clear? Not necessarily. It all comes down to predictability.

If an attack on a hotel guest is sudden and unprecedented, it might be understandable for the hotel to be unprepared and unable to protect that guest. Once violent crime has become a known, recurring threat for a particular hotel or its surrounding neighborhood, however, the owner has a duty to adjust the hotel’s security accordingly.

Sheraton locations don’t appear to have lived up to this obligation consistently. To name just a few incidents that could likely have been predicted:

  • In 2020, in that same Sheraton Suites in Cuyahoga Falls where the CO leak took place, a 19-year-old man was shot to death at a party. The frequency of 911 calls at the hotel was such that there were already officers on the premises, responding to other calls, when the shooting took place. Yet the shooter escaped unidentified.
  • In 2022, a tourist in Orlando, Florida reported that a backpack containing $1500 cash had been stolen from his hotel room. Using security footage, police traced a suspect to another nearby hotel — a Sheraton. When shown a picture of the suspect, an employee at the Sheraton immediately recognized him as a trespasser in their building. Apparently, the man had been freely wandering the Sheraton’s 19th, 20th, and 21st floors, pushing on doors to see what would open, for at least five days before the theft prompted police involvement.
  • In 2023, there was a shooting at the Sheraton Indianapolis Hotel, less than two years after a 17-year-old girl was rescued from a confirmed sex trafficking situation on that same property.

More isolated, but still extremely serious, instances of violence at Sheraton hotels include a mass shooting in Brookfield, Wisconsin in 2005, and another fatal shooting on Christmas Day of 2022, in City Center, Pennsylvania.

The mass shooting took place during a church service in a hotel conference room, and left seven dead and four wounded, not including the shooter, who took his own life. The Christmas Day shooting was apparently jealousy-motivated, and involved the shooter forcing his way into the room of the victim.

If these locations didn’t have reason to invest in security before, they certainly do now.

Hotels Have No Excuse Not to Be on the Lookout for Signs of Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking in hotels is such a pervasive and well-known problem that every hotel, even those operating in seemingly quiet neighborhoods, should have thorough anti-trafficking safety policies in place.

Some proven anti-trafficking measures include:

  • Requiring ID upon check-in.
  • Installing security cameras that capture guest license plates.
  • Training staff to recognize and report likely cases of sex trafficking.
  • Displaying signage encouraging sex trafficking victims to come forward, and providing contact info for organizations that assist survivors.

Like most hospitality brands, Sheraton has been the host of multiple sex trafficking incidents, involving minors and other people especially vulnerable to coercion.

In addition to the aforementioned 17-year-old rescued in Indianapolis, a 16-year-old runaway was discovered at a Sheraton in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2019. Three people were arrested for their roles in pimping and otherwise abusing her.

Further back, in 2001, there was also a 24-year-old woman who reported traveling from Indonesia to a Sheraton hotel in Flushing, New York, where she was expecting to work as a waitress. Instead, she was sold to a man who proceeded to traffic her, along with other women and girls, out of multiple houses and apartments nearby.

The horrible truth is that many hotel owners are not motivated to prevent sex trafficking, because of the profits it brings in. However, hotel owners are legally responsible for the sex trafficking that takes place on their properties, as long as they know, or reasonably should know, that it’s happening.

If you’ve been exploited this way at a Sheraton hotel, there’s a good chance you can sue for compensation.

What to Do If You’ve Been Harmed at a Sheraton Hotel

To set yourself up for your best chance at a successful case and a full recovery, try to follow these steps as closely as possible following an incident.

  1. Escape — This step may not apply if you’ve slipped on a wet floor or had a piece of furniture fall on you. However, in situations where there’s a continuing threat to your safety, such as an assailant or a poisonous gas leak, your first priority should be getting yourself and your loved ones somewhere safe.
  2. Seek professional medical care — This care might be available at the scene, if there’s an emergency crew response, or you might need to schedule your own appointment. The sooner you get a full exam, the clearer the official record of your injuries will be. You’ll also be less likely to injure yourself further by ignoring hard-to-detect internal damage.
  3. Preserve evidence — Ideally, this step begins with taking photos of the scene immediately after the incident, but safety and medical priorities may make that impossible. The important thing is to keep every piece of documentation you do have in a safe place. Hold on to medical bills, reservation confirmations, and text messages with other involved people. Anything that helps establish the sequence of events surrounding the incident, or the effect the incident has had on your life, may be useful.
  4. Refuse to cooperate — With Sheraton, that is. If a representative for Sheraton or Mariott contacts you to request a statement or offer a payout, know that they are not on your side. These techniques are intended to prevent or sabotage legitimate civil suits before they happen. Decline such communications until you have a lawyer to handle them on your behalf.
  5. Find a lawyer — Look for someone who has plenty of experience with cases similar to yours, and with fighting large, franchised companies.

The experts at the Stoddard Firm have extensive experience arguing cases involving premises liability, personal injury, wrongful death, sex trafficking, and negligent security. We understand the innkeeper laws and franchise laws that protect the hotel industry, and the limitations of those protections. Most importantly, we’re deeply passionate about holding large companies accountable for the accidents and crimes they enable, and getting the best possible outcomes for the survivors.

If you have been injured or lost someone, and would like to discuss your potential case against a specific Sheraton hotel and/or the Marriott company, reach out to the Stoddard Firm at 678-RESULTS, or through our online chat function, to get started with 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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