ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Hoteliers must remember the Lessons of Reasonable Care!
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE.
Friday, 21st November 2008
REASONABLE CARE - The degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would use under like circumstances.

I am not an attorney by profession and do not offer legal advice, but at this time of year I find myself remembering a great educator and hotel industry resource who shared much with the hospitality industry in his many roles as professor, workshop leader and keynote speaker to most of the industry's brands and associations.

The late Dr. Tony Marshall, formerly affiliated with Florida International University and The Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association has been called the Messenger of "Reasonable Care"2. Much of the work in his career was aimed at trying to advise the hospitality industry of the many common sense approaches that it could and should take in addressing guest and hotel safety issues.  Marshall passed away in December of 2006, but his messages remain with us. 

The Concept of Reasonable Care  by definition, is "satisfying a legal duty to act as an ordinary, prudent, reasonable person not to do something that will cause injury to guests, customers, or invitees, or fail to do what will prevent such injury."3

There are many resources available to hoteliers today, including their insurance carriers and hotel attorneys.  The following  Bakers Dozen of "Reasonable Care" points are offered as reminders for how hoteliers in every segment of the industry should consider in their every day planning and training.

Keeping in mind the definition above, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is the lighting in lobbies, hallways and elevators proper and appropriate to the needs of guests and staff?  Are there dark places that should be evaluated?
2. When is guest room furniture examined for safety features and condition? This should include chairs, tables, lamps, etc.
3. When was the last time you documented the condition, availability and usage of in room safes and/or safe deposit boxes?
4. How often are the in door viewers checked?
5. What is your documented procedure on all locks at your hotel, including key card usage and monitoring, locks  between rooms, to balconies and other guest access areas?
6. How often is your exterior landscaping reviewed in terms of lighting, shrubbery trimming, general accessibility, etc.?
7. How often is lobby and public space furniture checked for safety features, including banquet or breakfast equipment, portable dance floors, room dividers, pool furniture, etc?
8. What are your established policies and responses to slips and falls that may occur at your hotel?
9. If your hotel serves any kind of food or alcohol, what is your documented training related to food safety and liquor liability awareness? Both the AH&LA and the NRA have strong commitments to approved programs such as SERVE SAFE
10. METH LABS have been found in hotels around the world and are a growing concern, as well as other drug trafficking .What are your preventative plans and response actions relating to potential danger from drugs?
11. Are your hotel in house policies very clear and documented on  drinking, drugs on property, firearms and other significant topics
12. Not all hotels have dedicated security staff but every hotel should have a staff that is trained from day one to be observant and attentive to safety and security issues.  Documenting all training and possibly including this critical requirement in every job description reminds all staff of what reasonable care stands for.
13. Continuing education  is just that – ongoing awareness and concern for guests and staff.  The major brands all offer basics in safety and security orientation, but it is the ultimate and legal responsibility of the individual hotel owner and manager to introduce, monitor and maintain their own plan.    

I offer the following as a proven resource from personal experience and professional reputation.  
Dr. Stephen Barth is the founder of HospitalityLawyer.com and he is a frequent speaker at many brand and management company programs.  

This link is an example of the kinds of information available at this site. Innkeeper Liability for Guests' Property:


1. lectlaw.com/def2/q014.htm
2. hotel-online.com/News/PR2007_1st/Mar07_TMarshall.html          
3. global.marsh.com/industry/hospitality/reasonable.php

I have a series of upcoming columns on the following topics:

  • Building revenues in these challenging times
  • How to make Cultural Diversity Meaningful in Hospitality in 2009
  • Hospitality Leadership
  • Cost effective ways to increase training and retain champions
  • Lessons from the Field in sales, operations and service
Feel free to share an idea at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from www.smartbizzonline.com, THE ROOMS CHRONICLE  www.roomschronicle.com , and other industry sources.

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication.

John Hogan is  frequently invited to speak at Franchise Meetings, Management Company and hospitality association industry events.   He writes for a number of global online services and is actively involved in sharing industry 'best practices' .  He conducts mystery shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

John's background includes teaching university level courses as an adjunct professor at three different institutions over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He served as the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors' bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world's largest hotel chain.
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