- June 25, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Premises Liability
American tourists looking to explore more of the globe are often inundated with warnings about the risk of travel in different countries, and advice on how to protect themselves.
Some of this advice is well-intentioned and valuable. Being disconnected from your support system in unfamiliar surroundings is a vulnerable position to be in, and no two countries have exactly the same dangers or safety standards. An activity that’s perfectly safe at home could be deadly somewhere else, and vice-versa.
Unfortunately, the main message that underlies so much of this advice seems to be, “If you get hurt out there, you’re on your own.”
Thankfully, this isn’t altogether true.
Four U.S Tourists Have Suffered Apparent CO Poisoning at a Popular Resort in the Bahamas
On May 5th, 2022, Robbie and Michael Phillips reported that they were experiencing nausea and vomiting while staying at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort on Exuma Island. The couple received attention from local medical professionals, but then returned to their room, where they were found dead the next morning.
A man in another room nearby, Vincent Paul Chiarella, was also found dead at that time. His wife, Donnis, was airlifted to a hospital in Florida, where she seems to have physically recovered, although the long-term neurological effects of CO poisoning are not always immediately evident.
The subsequent investigation included toxicology work, some of which was performed in the U.S. Although the lab results have not been officially released to the public, Sandals released a statement on May 25th, pledging to respond to the incident by installing CO detectors in every guest room at every one of their resorts. The statement also mentions that local authorities traced the cause of death to an issue with a single building, which held only the two affected guestrooms.
Based on this, it seems highly probable that these deaths were caused by a CO leak in a sleeping space that did not have CO detectors at the time.
CO detectors are a relatively low-cost, highly effective method of protecting people from this invisible, odorless, and extremely dangerous gas. In the U.S, neglecting such a simple safety measure at the cost of even one life would be grounds for a CO wrongful death suit.
Businesses That Pursue U.S Tourist Dollars Take on U.S Liability
It’s true that suing an overseas company presents unique challenges, and sadly, there are some situations where it’s not possible at all, no matter how justified a case may be.
On the surface, Sandals appears fairly well insulated from legal action in U.S courts. There are no Sandals resorts on U.S soil, the company claims to headquartered in Jamaica, and this particular accident happened in the Bahamas.
However, while Sandals may be “headquartered” overseas, the Company has purposefully availed itself of the United States jurisdictions by advertising to US based tourists and working to get those tourists to its destinations. Said differently, Sandals aggressively markets its vacation offerings to U.S couples. Unlike small, off-the-beaten-path activities, operated by people who have no reason to know about laws outside their own country, Sandals has chosen to pursue an American market from offshore. Much like a foreign company that ships defective physical products to the U.S, Sandals can be held liable here in the United States under certain circumstances.
A Skilled Lawyer Can Help Tourists Victimized Abroad
The Stoddard Firm has extensive experience litigating against hotels that endanger guests with subpar safety measures. We’re also familiar with the procedures for international civil cases, and we believe that Sandals is not out of reach of U.S law.
If you are Donnis Chiarella, one of Robbie and Michael Phillips’ children, or anyone else who has lost a loved one to hotel negligence, reach out to us at any time for a free consultation on your legal options.