United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
Order & Reasons, the Court considers sua sponte
the applicable standard of care owed by an innkeeper to his
guests. Having reviewed the considerable body of Louisiana
law available to it, the Court rules as follows.
case arises from injuries Plaintiff Kevin Phetteplace
allegedly sustained while staying as a guest at the Dauphine
Orleans Hotel, a hotel owned, operated, insured, or
maintained by Defendants. R. Doc. 1 at 2-4. Plaintiff, a
resident of California, alleges that on April 6, 2017, he was
staying with his sister as a guest in Room 310 of the
Dauphine Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend a
pre-wedding party for another sister. R. Doc. 1 at 3.
Plaintiff asserts that on this evening he visited Pat
O'Brien's bar where he and other individuals
associated with the party consumed alcoholic beverages. R.
Doc. 1 at 3. Plaintiff contends he returned to his hotel room
at approximately 1:00 a.m. but was never intoxicated to the
point of functional impairment. R. Doc. 1 at 4. At
approximately 4:00 a.m., Plaintiff contends he arose, opened
the door to what he believed was the bathroom, and fell over
a railing, plummeting to the ground below. Id.
Plaintiff alleges he was taken back to his room by hotel
staff whereupon his sister took him to Tulane Medical Center
for treatment. R. Doc. 1 at 4-5. As a result of his fall,
Plaintiff alleges he sustained serious physical injuries,
including shattering his wrist and breaking his foot.
Id. Plaintiff returned to California following the
incident in serious pain, where he underwent extensive wrist
surgery. R. Doc. 1 at 5.
alleges his fall and resulting injuries were caused by
Defendants' negligence and failure to maintain the
premises in a safe and habitable condition, including the
absence of proper notices, warnings, and lighting, failure to
have proper and sufficient locks securing the door, and
inappropriate design and maintenance of the door, window, and
railing area from which he fell. R. Doc. 1 at 5. Plaintiff
claims he is entitled to damages for permanent physical and
emotional damage, pain, suffering, impairment of enjoyment of
life, disability, loss of earnings, and diminishment of
earning capacity. R. Doc. 1 at 6. Additionally, Plaintiff
believes he is entitled to funds for the reimbursement of his
travel to and from California to New Orleans. R. Doc. 1 at 6.
answer arguing Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of
action upon which relief can be granted. R. Doc. 11 at 1.
Defendants deny any negligence on their part and assert
numerous defenses, including asserting Plaintiff's own
negligence caused his injuries, Plaintiff's damages were
more severe because he failed to mitigate his damages, and
that Plaintiff's injuries were caused by pre-existing or
subsequent accidents. R. Doc. 6 at 5-6.
LAW & ANALYSIS
pivotal issue in this case is the applicable standard of care
owed by a hotel or innkeeper to its guests. Plaintiff
contends that, in this case, the appropriate standard is a
“high degree of care and protection.” Defendant
takes a different view, arguing the appropriate standard is
ordinary care under the same or similar circumstances. The
issue presented here is one unsettled by the Louisiana
courts. Therefore, this Court must make an Erie
diversity cases, such as the present case, federal courts
must apply state substantive law. Ashland Chem. Inc. v.
Barco Inc., 123 F.3d 261, 265 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing
Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).
In this case, Louisiana law applies. Where, as here, there is
no code provision or Louisiana Supreme Court case directly on
point, the court must make an “Erie
guess.” Vanderbrook v. Unitrin Preferred Ins.
Co., 495 F.3d 191, 206 (5th Cir. 2007). In making an
Erie guess, the court must not “alter existing
law or to change direction.” Jackson v.
Johns-Manville Sales Corp., 781 F.2d 394, 397 (5th Cir.
1986) (en banc) (overruled, in part, on other grounds).
Rather, when making an Erie guess, the court must
determine, in its best judgment:
how [the Louisiana Supreme C]ourt would resolve the issue if
presented with the same case. In making an Erie
guess, [the court] must employ Louisiana's civilian
methodology, whereby [it] first examine[s] primary sources of
law: the constitution, codes, and statutes. Jurisprudence,
even when it rises to the level of jurisprudence
constante, is a secondary law source in Louisiana. Thus,
although [the court] will not disregard the decisions of
Louisiana's intermediate courts unless [it is] convinced
that the Louisiana Supreme Court would decide otherwise, [it
is] not strictly bound by them.
Vanderbrook, 495 F.3d at 206 (citations and
quotation marks omitted).
Standard of Care
case, the Louisiana Supreme Court case that most closely
addresses the standard of care an innkeeper owes to its
guests is Kraaz v. La Quinta Motor Inns, Inc., 410
So.2d 1048 (La. 1982). In Kraaz, the Louisiana
Supreme Court considered the “delictual liability of an
innkeeper for an employee's negligence which is a
substantial factor in the armed robbery of a guest.”
Id. at 1049. While the facts of Kraaz
differ from the case at bar, it is instructive, as the
Louisiana Supreme Court held in Kraaz that an
innkeeper owes its patrons “a high degree of care and
protection.” Id. at 1053; see also Banks
v. Hyatt ...