Shameful: Marriott Hotel Uses 1872 Law To Bonvoy Guest Out Of $8000

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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 He highlighted the fact the law is outdated, saying in part this statute “has not been revised to accord with the current value of luggage, clothing, and most notably computer equipment and its data.”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.

DDGhttp://dannydealguru.com
Based in NYC. Points/miles enthusiast for years and actively writing about it for the last 6+ years at Danny the Deal Guru. I'm always looking out for deals. Making a few bucks is always nice, but the traveling is by far the best part of this business.

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17 COMMENTS

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Very fishy story to start. Anyone has valuable when traveling should keep the valuables with them all time. Not in checked luggage. Not in airport storage. All have liability cap or limit. IF guest asks to have valuables stores at any premise, this has to be stated, verified and agreed. It is groundless to make a huge claim only AFTER the incident happened. Law is law. No one can change that law.

    The other thing is the nature of the claim. Accuser claimed there were an Apple iPad and MacBook. Those things just do not add up to $8,400. Accuser also claimed the MacBook has his 7-year worth of tax return data. He must have claimed damages on that too. No one would be held responsible for any data loss, recovering and re-construction. This seems like a blackmail fraudulent claim case. He tries to scam Marriott. Same line of the hot coffee vs McDonald case.

    • “The plaintiff, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman, suffered third-degree burns in her pelvic region when she accidentally spilled coffee in her lap after purchasing it from a McDonald’s restaurant. She was hospitalized for eight days while undergoing skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment. Liebeck sought to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses. McDonald’s refused…”

      Yeah, some scam.

  2. Horrible action/response by the hotel, wonder if it’s corporate owned or licensed owner who refused. Anyway, ideally Sabouni needed a much better attorney, as well suit based on many other factors. Unfortunately, in today’s system that would have cost $100k+ to win $10k.

    • I’m not a lawyer, so could you please tell us the other causes of action his attorney was apparently not competent to include.

      • Also, not an attorney nor is this legal advice. To clarify, Sabouni needed a much better attorney than himself. The maximum amount you can sue for property damage in CA small claims court is $10k, and you are not allowed to have an attorney. You’ve now put your case before the weakest tier of justice, and have no representation to establish the merits of your case, which upon appeal, is all you’ll have in the record. You’re now an amateur appearing pro se, making your own case worse. Let’s assume the claim was for loss of property – I left it with them, they lost it, thus, capped at $1000 by the old statute – which is a loss of property statute. Possible larger more significant courses of action might have been: Neglect for failure to properly train staff leading to the loss of property, check for proper signage would be failure to notify, failure to provide adequate security to guests by allowing non-guests and thieves onto property. Might include emotional duress, along with losses for cost of obtaining replacement and temporary goods, time lost, etc. I would look into similar thefts at the same hotel for a pattern; with a pattern, the hotel failed to warn – neglect – about this known risk. More neglect. More damages.

        Here is a case, almost identical, for negligence resulting in damage to property, where the courts determined that the Section 1859 limits/stature didn’t apply when suing for negligence – versus simply a suit for loss of property:
        https://casetext.com/case/taylor-v-forte-hotels-international, which opens with, “We decide in this appeal that the 90-day limitations period of Code of Civil Procedure section 341afn. 1 “for the recovery or conversion of personal property, wearing apparel, trunks, valises or baggage” left at a hotel does not apply to actions seeking damages against the hotel based on negligence or breach of contract.”

        Here is another case with the hotel being found liable, https://casetext.com/case/roberts-v-forte-hotels-inc

        Heck, I’m not even trying and it’s obvious that there is a ton of favorable case law and no way did this below in amateur court.

        My point is, being your own attorney is a waste, small claims is a waste, and no matter what, the system is too expensive to have come out ahead anyway.

        • Just search for “taylor versus forte hotels international,” and read the case, you’ll see it’s almost identical, for negligence resulting in damage to property, where the courts determined that the Section 1859 limits/stature didn’t apply when suing for negligence, so while the appeal was to dispute the time limit, the decision indicates that the statue wouldn’t apply to negligence cases: “We decide in this appeal that the 90-day limitations period of Code of Civil Procedure section “for the recovery or conversion of personal property, wearing apparel, trunks, valises or baggage” left at a hotel does not apply to actions seeking damages against the hotel based on negligence or breach of contract.”

      • My fuller response is “awaiting moderation,” so here is it shortened thinking that the links to case law (supporting a win and that the old law didn’t apply) was the issue:

        Also, not an attorney nor is this legal advice. To clarify, Sabouni needed a much better attorney than himself. The maximum amount you can sue for property damage in CA small claims court is $10k, and you are not allowed to have an attorney. You’ve now put your case before the weakest tier of justice, and have no representation to establish the merits of your case, which upon appeal, is all you’ll have in the record. You’re now an amateur appearing pro se, making your own case worse. Let’s assume the claim was for loss of property – I left it with them, they lost it, thus, capped at $1000 by the old statute – which is a loss of property statute. Possible larger more significant courses of action might have been: Neglect for failure to properly train staff leading to the loss of property, check for proper signage would be failure to notify, failure to provide adequate security to guests by allowing non-guests and thieves onto property. Might include emotional duress, along with losses for cost of obtaining replacement and temporary goods, time lost, etc. I would look into similar thefts at the same hotel for a pattern; with a pattern, the hotel failed to warn – neglect – about this known risk. More neglect. More damages.

  3. Not advocating for Bonvoy here, but in this case it’s not really about Marriott Corp, but rather the hotel owner Host Hotels – whose portfolio consists of many familiar properties from the Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton umbrellas

    • Not advocating for Bonvoy here, but in this case it’s not really about Marriott Corp, but rather the hotel owner Host Hotels – whose portfolio consists of many familiar properties from the Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton umbrellas

  4. I left Marriott about 13 years ago when one of their properties did not honor their contract with me and give the amount of points for my daughters wedding. When I showed them the contract they said the person that agreed to that in writing was let go and they would not honor it. I paid a lot of $ to them. I was at the top of their status at the time and have been very happy with Hilton ever since. I even wrote to the Marriott head office and did not get a response. I have not stayed at a Marriott property since and never will.

  5. Hopefully, Marriott compensated this valued Bonvoyed guest with a bonus of at least 1,000 extra Bonvoy points and upgraded him to Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite status for his inconvenience.

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