Wednesday, January 31, 2018

O'Malley v. Hospitality Staffing Solutions (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 31, 2018)

Justice Moore begins today's opinion by noting the general rule:

"Ordinarily, a person has no legal duty to come to the aid of another. But if a person does come to the aid of another, and does so without exercising reasonable care, that person may be responsible for any damages caused under a 'negligent undertaking' theory of liability."

There are various statutory exceptions to that rule, there are various issues of fact regarding whether someone has a duty, etc.  This case involves applying all those things to the issue at hand.

Here, a wife checked into a hotel, her husband kept calling her without answer, and he eventually called the hotel and asked 'em to check up on her.  The hotel sent up a maintenance worker who quickly peeked into the dark room and didn't see anything, and hence told the husband that there was no one there.  But the husband later drove to the hotel and found his wife on the floor, where she fell after suffering a brain aneurysm.

Hence the lawsuit.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant on the ground that there was no duty.  The Court of Appeal reverses, holding that since the hotel bothered to check, a duty may well exist.

Okay, fine.  You can see why precedent might so hold.

Just don't be surprised, in the future, if hotels accordingly refuse to help you out when you think that your spouse may have had a heart attack, have collapsed in her room, etc.  "Sorry, we'd love to help out if we could, but if we do, you might sue us.  So we can't help you.  Our general counsel has set a firm policy that we can never help anyone out if there's a worry they might be in danger.  Have a nice day."

That's definitely the world in which I'd like to live.