Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hospitality Industry Flood Risks: Tennessee Hotel Owners Sue Federal Government For “Negligence” In Managing Spillway Resulting In “100-Year Flood” Levels Two Years Ago

Gaylord wants $250 million for damages to its Gaylord Opryland Hotel and the Grand Ole Opry House

 “…the Corps opened the spillway at Old Hickory Dam…the discharges were so high they caused the Cumberland River to rise above the 100-year flood plain and cause all this damage…”

Gaylord Entertainment plans to file a lawsuit today against the federal government, alleging U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Weather Service negligence led to major damage to its luxury hotel during the Cumberland River flood two years ago.

The suit will contend that the Corps was negligent in opening the spillway at the Old Hickory Dam on May 2, 2010, and the Weather Service failed to notify the public that water levels would reach the 100-year flood levels that devastated homes and businesses.

Gaylord and A.O. Smith filed initial claims with the Corps and the Weather Service for compensation in October, a requirement under the 1946 Federal Tort Claims Act, which governs how legal action can be filed against the federal government.

Once the two agencies rejected the Gaylord and A.O. Smith claims, the companies were free to file a lawsuit but had to endure a six-month waiting period.

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Hospitality Industry Employee Risks: Minnesota Restaurant Must “Reinstate” Fired Workers With “Back Pay” According To National Labor Relations Board Ruling

 “…the judge ruled the workers must be reinstated within 14 days and are eligible for back pay — about $10,000 each…”

Six local Jimmy John’s workers fired more than a year ago should get their jobs back, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled last week. The workers were fired after plastering parts of the Twin Cities with fliers claiming the restaurant’s customers were at risk of illness because of a sick-day policy requiring workers to find their own replacement if they were sick.

On Friday the judge ruled the workers must be reinstated within 14 days and are eligible for back pay — about $10,000 each, according to an estimate by Erik Forman, who lost his job at the West End Jimmy John’s store in St. Louis Park, Minn.

The stores’ owners have not yet decided whether to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“It’s a big victory. It’s not unexpected for us — we’ve known for a long time that our posters and our right to speak out about health and safety issues are legally protected,” Forman said. “But we’re glad to see that we’re one step closer to getting back to work and exercise our right to organize.”

In a March 2011 letter to franchise co-owner Rob Mulligan, Jimmy John’s workers called the sick-day policy a risk to the public’s safety, as it required workers to find their own replacement or go unpaid if they didn’t work, creating an incentive to work while ill.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: West Virginia Hotel Owner Sued Over “Similar Name” In “Common Law Trademark” Lawsuit

“…The suit also seeks Bhatin to change the hotel’s domain name,, and to file a cancellation of the Hotel Morgantown trade name with the Secretary of State’s office…”

Officials of an 86-year-old Morgantown hotel are crying foul over a nearby hotel’s name, saying the similar name violates its longstanding common law trademark. Filed April 26 by The Hotel Morgan Company against Himanshu Bhatin and his company Sahaj Morgantown LLC, the suit seeks Bhatin to change the name of his Hotel Morgantown to one that does not contain any variation of the words “hotel,” “Morgan” and “Morgantown.”

Hotel Morgan opened in 1925 as a “premier full-service lodging, restaurant and banquet facility,” the suit states, and has gained “regional and national recognition and prominence.”

Bhatin, a New Jersey resident, opened Hotel Morgantown & Conference Center in 2011. 

“Although Hotel Morgan is not registered as a state or federal service mark, it has acquired ‘secondary meaning,’ and is lawfully entitled to the protection afforded to common law trademarks under various state, federal and international laws, conventions and policies.”

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Hospitality Industry Health Risks: Two Wisconsin Women File “Salmonella Sushi Lawsuit” After Eating Sushi Rolls At Local Restaurant; Any Party In “Chain Of Distribution” Potentially Liable Under Product Liability Laws

Food-poisoning cases like the Salmonella sushi lawsuit generally fall under product liability laws. Any party in the product’s chain of distribution — including manufacturers, retailers, and middlemen — can potentially be held liable, depending on the source of contamination.

“…distributors may have removed the packaging before selling it to restaurants, which may not know they’re serving a potentially contaminated product, the Wisconsin victims’ lawyer told MSNBC…”

In a Salmonella sushi lawsuit filed last week, two Wisconsin women, 22 and 33, claim they were severely sickened after eating tuna sushi rolls at a local restaurant, MSNBC reports. The sushi rolls allegedly contained ground yellowfin tuna with Nakaochi Scrape.

California-based Moon Marine USA has recalled 59,000 pounds of raw, ground yellowfin tuna from India, which was packaged as “Nakaochi Scrape AA” or “AAA.”

But distributors may have removed the packaging before selling it to restaurants, which may not know they’re serving a potentially contaminated product, the Wisconsin victims’ lawyer told MSNBC.

Salmonella infections generally lead to diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 72 hours, according to the FDA. Victims usually recover after about a week.

But the Wisconsin women’s infections were more severe, and required hospital treatment. One woman was diagnosed with an ulcerated colon, which her personal-injury lawsuit blames on contaminated Nakaochi Scrape.

Scientific tests show the Salmonella sushi victims were sickened by a rare type of bacteria called Salmonella Bareilly, the women’s lawyer said. Investigations are underway to determine where bacteria came from.

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Hospitality Industry Employment Risks: Federal Lawsuit Alleges Miami Employment Agency Forced Thrity “H-2B Status” Guest Workers To Do Unsanctioned Work As Housekeepers At Florida Hotels

According to the lawsuit, thirty guest workers were brought to Miami by Villanueva, purportedly to work at the W South Beach as housekeepers for $8.28 an hour.

“…(plaintiff) had many of the workers do unsanctioned work for less than minimum wage. He charged the workers “security deposits” ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 Filipino pesos– or $1,200 to $2,350– which they would lose if they quit those jobs. He crowded the workers in housing Florida and New Jersey, “on floors, air mattresses, and in hallways”, according to the suit, and in “beds infested with bedbugs.”

According to a new federal lawsuit, the Filipino worker who changed your sheets at W South Beach Hotel, or served you lunch at posh restaurants and country clubs, may have essentially been an indentured servant. Seventeen Filipino immigrants allege that a ring of Miami-based employment agencies charged them outrageous “security deposits,” forced them to work for less than minimum wage and no overtime, and stashed them in overcrowded housing.

In a statement to Riptide, the hotel’s general manager George Cozonis acknowledged that the W had used Villanueva’s workers in the past: “W South Beach does not currently work with Jose Villanueva’s agency, Lincoln Road Employment Advisory Services, to provide staffing to the hotel or any of its affiliated operators. LREAS was used briefly during the opening period of the hotel, but all ties were severed more than 19 months ago.”

Employers such as the W, The Admiral’s Club country club in Jupiter, and the Kiawah Island Club in South Carolina arranged with Villanueva for the workers to immigrate under H-2B status from 2006 to 2009.

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Hospitality Industry Health Risks: Oklahoma Restaurant Chain Faces Multiple Lawsuits After “Salmonella Outbreak”; 68 People Confirmed Infected By Centers For Disease Control (CDC)

 “..(the Plaintiff)..sued the restaurant in February, claiming that she was sick  for two weeks after eating at Taco Bell. She’s seeking more than $75,000 in  damages…”

The Centers for Disease Control said that 68 people — including 16 in Oklahoma  — were infected with salmonella after eating at a “Mexican-style fast-food  restaurant chain.”

Taco Bell is facing a second lawsuit after a Shawnee family said their child  contracted salmonella in Oklahoma. The family said their 9-year-old got sick from eating at the restaurant.  The child spent three days in a hospital with a 105-degree fever, according to  the lawsuit.

A lawsuit filed by a Norman woman who claimed she contracted salmonella  after eating at Taco Bell was transferred to federal court.

In a court filing, Taco Bell denied it was liable for Smith’s illness.  The company asked a federal judge to dismiss it from the lawsuit.
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Hospitality Industry Employment Risks: California Supreme Court Ruling Mandates That State’s Hotels And Restaurants Need Only Make Employee “Meal And Rest Periods Available”; Not Required To Ensure “Actually Taken”

The Court makes clear the following: “When someone is … employed … for five hours, an employer is put to a choice: it must (1) afford an off duty meal period; (2) consent to a mutually agreed-upon waiver if one hour or less will end the shift; or (3) obtain written agreement to an on duty meal period if circumstances permit. Failure to do one of these will render the employer liable for premium pay.” Brinker, p. 35.

At issue in Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court was whether California employers must ensure that their employees actually take their meal and rest periods or merely make them available. To the collective relief of California employers, the court found that an employer must only provide meal and rest periods to its employees, leaving the employees free to use the period for whatever purpose they desire. The employer is not obligated to ensure no work is performed during the period.

The Court continues: “[a]n employer’s duty with respect to meal breaks … is an obligation to provide a meal period to its employees. The employer satisfies this obligation if it relieves its employees of all duty, relinquishes control over their activities and permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and does not impede or discourage them from doing so.” Brinker, Slip Opinion, p. 36 (emphasis added).

The Court further acknowledged that what will suffice may vary from industry to industry, but held, “the employer is not obligated to police meal breaks and ensure no work thereafter is performed. Bona fide relief from duty and the relinquishing of control satisfies the employer’s obligations, and work by a relieved employee during a meal break does not thereby place the employer in violation of its obligations and create liability for premium pay.” Brinker, p. 36-7 (emphasis added).

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: Texas Hotel Sued By Man For “Negligence” After Breaking Ankle In Hotel Lobby

“…(Plaintiff) fell on a slippery marble floor near the lobby area of the hotel…(he) is seeking damages and court costs…”

A native of the Netherlands is suing after he broke his ankle at a Memorial-area hotel.  Harry Kanters filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, April 17 in the Harris County District Court against American Liberty Hospitality and Hilton Garden Inn/Houston Galleria in Memorial, citing negligence.

Kanters says on April 18, 2010, he broke his ankle while staying as a guest at the Hilton Garden Inn Galleria, located at 3201 Sage Road in Memorial.

He is being represented in the case by Southlake attorney Gregory Jones.

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Hospitality Industry Property Risks: Texas Motel Damaged By “Wind-Fueled Fire” That Momentarily Traps Firefighters; Firewall Proves Useless In Windy Conditions

“With the winds, even if you have firewalls, if somebody puts a cable hole — every little breach of a firewall for cable, electric, whatever is going to be a void. That firewall’s not intact anymore.”

San Antonio firefighters had a close call Friday afternoon when the rear of a burning motel collapsed on them. Crews responded to the fire reported at the Studio 6 motel at Highway 281 and Rhapsody to find flames shooting through the structure, according to WOAI-TV.

The wind-fueled fire originated on the first floor of the hotel, extended to the attic and then spread to a neighboring building. Fire Chief Charles Hood said that his firefighters had to rely on their training when the blaze quickly became out of control and a Mayday was called.

“That’s one of those moments when your heart just goes to your feet because we have reports of firefighters trapped,” he told the news station. Luckily, all of the firefighters made it out safely and no injuries were sustained.

Hood said that winds played a big role in helping the fire grow, and that if the building did have firewall, they wouldn’t have stopped it. Around 100 firefighters were on the scene and after the collapse, crews switched to a defensive fire attack to put out the blaze.

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Hospitality Industry Health Risks: California Hotel Sued For $6 Million By Man Who Contracted Legionnaires’ Disease From Hotel’s Water System; Tests Confirm Bacteria Sickened Six People Resulting In One Death

“…In October 2011, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed the Legionella bacteria was present in water collected from various locations at the Plim Plaza. Six people were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease; one of them later died…”

The lawsuit alleges that the hotel was negligent in its failure to “adequately inspect, monitor and maintain” its water system.

(The Plaintiff)…went on to spend six weeks in the hospital, during which he experienced renal failure, septic shock and respiratory failure, according to the complaint. His medical bills exceeded $200,000 by the time he was discharged on Sept. 24.

A Virginia man who contracted Legionnaires’ Disease in Ocean City last summer is suing the Plim Plaza Hotel for $6 million.

Virginia resident Pat Eldon Dent Jr., and his wife, Martha Dent, filed a lawsuit against the historic Boardwalk hotel in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on April 18. The lawsuit, which names Plim Plaza Hotel Inc. and the Hale and John Harrison Partnership as defendants, seeks $5 million for negligence and $1 million for loss of consortium.

The lawsuit alleges the hotel’s water system was contaminated with unsafe levels of the Legionella bacteria while Dent and his wife stayed there between July 29, 2011, and Aug. 1, 2011. After returning to his home on Aug. 1, Dent began to feel feverish and on Aug. 10 was admitted to Winchester Medical Center and diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, according to the seven-page complaint filed by Rockville attorney Ronald Karp.

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