Black Immigrant Daily News
Appeal Court judge Allan
Mendonca, who delievered the court’s ruling. FILE PHOTO –
A PROMINENT business family from Barbados has lost an $8 million claim against hotelier Courtyard by Marriott after their patriarch slipped in the bathroom of his hotel room at the Port of Spain-based hotel, in 2008, and eventually became a paraplegic. He died 19 months later.
Shouket Abed’s children filed the lawsuit against the Courtyard Marriott Port of Spain alleging the fall was a result of a breach of duty by the hotel’s owners.
The claim for compensation amounted to TT$7,283,500 and BDS$253,000.
On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal dismissed Abed’s children’s appeal as it found that given the evidence, the hotel did take reasonable care to prevent harm from any unusual danger that might have been caused by a wet bathroom floor.
Presiding over the appeal were Justices Allan Mendonca, Prakash Moosai and Gillian Lucky. Mendonca, who delivered the ruling, said Abed was expected to use reasonable care for his own safety.
Abed checked into the hotel on June 15, 2008, and on the next day, he slipped on the tiled floor while coming from the bathtub.
He hit the back of his neck on the vanity and after the fall, his condition gradually worsened, the lawsuit said, and he died 19 months later.
Abed’s children alleged the hotel failed to put matting or some other non-skid surface on the bathroom floor so guests would be safe; failed to provide hand/grab rails to assist with the exit from the bathtub; should have known a tiled floor would be slippery and hazardous when wet and failed to ensure guests were not exposed to risk or warned them of same.
The evidence provided were statements from Abed’s sons, Anthony and Edward, who recounted what their father told them about the fall in room 406, and of their own observations of the bathroom.
In defence of the claim, the hotel denied negligence and breaching its duty of care to ensure its premises were reasonably safe.
It also said Abed’s fall, injuries and eventual death were caused by his own negligence by him failing to put the shower curtain inside the bathtub, which caused an excess of water to fall on the floor, and failing to exercise care for his own safety given his age and medical condition.
Abed was 76, obese and possibly suffering from pulmonary hypertension. He had visited Trinidad to attend a funeral.
Testifying for the hotel were its engineers, one of whom did an accident site inspection of the hotel and the room. The engineers admitted that while Trinidad and Tobago did not have building-code standards, structures were built according to international codes and industry standards.
Also testifying was a project management consultant who provided a report on acceptable slip-resistance values for bathroom tiles although he was unable to test the tiles in room 406, as they had, by then, been replaced.
The hotel’s owners also maintained there was a towel mat on the floor of the bathroom, grab rails and there was a sign asking guests to ensure the shower curtain remained inside the bathtub.
The Abeds’ claim was dismissed at the High Court and they appealed. Mendonca admitted he was neither able to properly evaluate the slipperiness of the tile based on the evidence nor did he find anything improper in the hotel’s conduct for not keeping the tiles.
However, he said, it was “fair to conclude the tile was slippery when wet,” and the warning by the hotel to ensure the shower curtain remained inside the tub sent a clear message to users, that if water got on the floor, “it could be dangerous and you can slip and fall.”
The judge said it should come as no surprise to the average adult that water may get on the floor of a bathroom not only when the shower curtain is left outside the bathtub, but also when one is emerging from the bathtub after showering.
“As the floor can become slippery when wet, the need to take some precaution in those circumstances should be evident.”
He said there was evidence the hotel had towel mats and grab bars to help prevent a fall from occurring from a loss of balance or slip.
The Abed family was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, while the Courtyard Marriott, Port of Spain was represented by Larry Lalla and Shiv Sharma.