Marriott Hotel Uses 1872 Law To Bonvoy Guest Out Of $8000
Hotels across California can avoid paying significant sums for damages to guests by using a loophole through a 150 year old law.
The law has come into light during a court battle between Bob Sabouni and San Francisco Marriott Marquis. But even though he won in court, it doesn’t really feel like a win. He’s not able to get full compensation for the damages.
The law in question is from 1872. That’s when the California legislature added a liability cap to the “Innkeeper’s” law. That law is so old that it makes references to guest’s “valise” and steamer “trunks.”
According to the court judgment, Sabouni lost $8,390.88 of his belongings at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. The hotel accidentally gave all his stuff away to an alleged criminal without checking for any valid ID. The thief got away with a Briggs & Riley rollaway bag, a Tumi leather backpack, an iPad Pro, a MacBook Pro, and a 4TB hard drive with sensitive personal information.
Sabouni sued Marriott in small claims court after the hotel was unwilling to compensate him for his losses. They asked for receipts for every item. He won and the judge awarded him $5,000. It was just a bit more than half of what he was asking for, but it was an acceptable outcome for Sabouni. But it didn’t there.
Marriott successfully appealed the case citing the Inn Keeper’s statute, which limits a hotel’s liability for guests’ belongings to $1,000. The San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ross noted however that “this is one of the rare instances where the law does not allow the court to achieve the equitable result.” He highlighted the fact the law is outdated, saying in part this statute “has not been revised to accord with the current value of luggage, clothing, and most notably computer equipment and its data.” $1,000 in 1872 would be worth about $23,560 today.
Judge Jeffrey Ross also called out Marriott. He wrote in the court judgment that “one might expect Marriott to recognize the aberration and in the interest of customer relations, to pay the judgment. Instead, Marriot appealed.”
Marriott was eventually told to pay Sabouni $1,553 after the appeal, for a mistake made by its own staff. Meanwhile, Sabouni told KGO that on top of accounting for his losses, he’s spent well over $10,000 fighting this case.