Peepholes, Terrorists, Legionnaires' disease and Franchisor Liability for Injuries
The deadly terrorist attack in Pakistan on the Marriott Islamabad Hotel in 2008; t
he filming of Erin
Andrews in her hotel room through a peephole at the Nashville
in 2008; the alleged contraction of Legionnaires' Disease from the whirlpool tub and swimming pool at the Sheraton Hotel North Charleston in 2009. How are these dreadful events related? They are connected by similar lawsuits in which injured hotel guests sought, unsuccessfully, to impose damages liability on the franchisors.
Potential liability for injuries arising from the operations of a franchisee may attach to a franchisor under several legal theories. Generally, in a hotel context, a franchisor's accountability is based upon either direct liability
- the franchisor's, or its own immediate employees', negligent conduct; or vicarious liability - the negligence of its franchisee and its employees.
How these theories will be applied to a franchisor in any given set of circumstances will depend, in part, upon the "vertical relationship" between the franchisor and the injured customer. In this regard, a hotel may be:
- owned and operated by the franchisor directly;
- owned by the franchisor, but managed by another party; or
- owned by independent business who holds a brand-franchise license.