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Hotel From Hell

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Hotel From Hell

Hotel From Hell

Mother raped at hotel in presence of her young child sues hotel 

When you go on vacation, you presume that hotel establishments have secured premises and secure rooms. Apparently not at the El Governor Motel in Mexico City, Florida.  Janice Williamson, her fiance’ and her 11-year-old child traveled from Alabama to enjoy a vacation at the beachside El Governor Motel. Unbeknownst to them, the motel had previous criminal incidents which they kept secret from vacationers. They also had master-style keys floating around that opened multiple different rooms.

Instead of enjoying their stay, they ended up being subject to a rape and brutal attack in the middle of the night in their hotel room. As their lawsuit alleges, Janice Williamson was raped at the hotel in the presence of her young child, and her fiance’ was beaten, bitten and had a bone broken during the 20-minute fight with the rapist until he successfully subdued the criminal. Mr. Lee was convicted of the crimes and is presently in jail on a life sentence.

The child unsuccessfully attempted to call 9-1-1 but the phone system would not allow the call to be connected. It turns out that the hotel had a history of criminal incidents, where no one at the hotel took responsibility to ensure the security of used old easily-duplicable keys that are simply thrown in a central box that anyone has access to. The perpetrator has been convicted and is in jail.  The criminal has admitted using one of the old keys he had from a previous stay to enter the room, in direct contradiction to the motel’s claim that the rapist entered the room by essentially jumping from balcony to balcony, 

According to lead attorney, Michael Dolce of Mager, Dolce & Paruas, LLC, among the approximate three dozen motel employees, none of them were charged with the responsibility of even considering, let alone implementing, security of any sort other than having locks on the doors.  The motel’s owners, who maintained active participation in motel management on at least a weekly basis, likewise took no responsibility for security other than having locks on the doors. Despite the motel’s claims of 24/7 security, it turns out that the property has no fencing or other form of controlled access, has no security guards and no operational security cameras, among other alleged inadequate security.  There is also no safety chain on either the front door or balcony door in the guest rooms, nor any visitor-view (peep) hole in the guest room doors and some of the hotel room door frames and door lock mechanisms are in poor repair, a matter visible on casual inspection.  He relays that in the two years before the attack on the Webb family, the local police report making numerous runs to the motel, with at least 45 of the runs – approximately one every other week — were for crimes and risks which should have raised significant security concerns warranting implementing a higher level of security to prevent and deter criminals such as Ronald Lee, the man who attacked the family.

Equally problematic, guests at check-in are issued a large head metal key with the room number engraved to open the door lock in the handle of the front door of their assigned guest room.    The key carries no warning or prohibition against duplication.  

Because the motel has no main office staff on premises from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., and therefore locks the main lobby, if a guest leaves the premises during those hours, he or she is to “check out” by dropping the metal room keys into a “key drop” box mounted on the wall outside the main office.  The box is made of wood, bears large lettering reading “key drop,” and has a lid with a slot into which the keys are dropped.  The lid has no lock on it, so anybody could open the box between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., remove any keys, duplicate them, and then return the original keys to the box without being detected by any motel employee. If a key is lost, there are no steps taken by the hotel to re-key the room with a different lock or otherwise make it impossible to use the lost/stolen key for that room. In fact, while the motel admits that these keys could be taken at random and re-used, they rarely ever re-keys all the rooms. The motel could have been easily “keyed” with the typical electronic key system used in most hotels, but chose not to do.  According to the testimony of the master locksmith, there were ‘master’ keys out there that worked to open any number of individual rooms. 

Dolce relays that there is also sworn testimony from long term employees at the motel that they didn’t even know the right way to reach 9-1-1 from the room, one claiming you have to hit “9” first (meaning you dial 9-9-1-1), when the actual reality was that when you dial 9-1-1, you get a recording that only allows you the option of connecting to the front desk, and even if you choose that option, the line simply rings and the guest cannot reach emergency help if it is between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.).  

Dolce notes that the sworn testimony shows that despite being aware of the list of problems, the Webb family were not given any warning of the risks.  The case is in suit, and most recently, a request for the court to permit the addition of claims for punitive damages has been filed.  This request, if granted by the court, would allow the jury to award up to three times the amount of compensatory damages, if it wishes.

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