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Hotel liability for norovirus outbreaks
Under Nevada premises liability laws, hotels owe its patrons the highest standard of care. This means that hotels must actively search for foreseeable hazards and quickly address and protect against them. This is partly why businesses are required to conduct regular inspections and follow safety codes.
Considering that norovirus infects millions of people every year, it is foreseeable that occasionally people with norovirus will enter hotel grounds. As soon as the hotel learns that one of its patrons has fallen ill, it is “on notice” that there may be an outbreak. Depending on the situation, the hotel may then be required to:
- conduct a full disinfectant sweep of all common areas and the sick patron’s hotel room,
- dispose of any food or drinks that may be infected,
- prohibit any infected employees from coming into work until they are well,
- contact the appropriate authority — such as the Southern Nevada Health District — to help investigate and mitigate the outbreak, and/or
- temporarily close the entire facility
If a hotel fails to take reasonable precautionary and corrective measures, then norovirus victims may have a viable legal argument that the hotel was negligent.
Proving a premises liability claim in Nevada
Hotel patrons who contract norovirus at a Las Vegas hotel may be able to bring a negligence lawsuit against the hotel under the Nevada theory of premises liability. If the case goes to trial, the victim (“plaintiff”) would carry the burden to prove the following elements:
- The defendant is the owner of the premises or is in control of the premises where the accident took place (the hotel);
- The plaintiff was on the premises at the defendant’s consent (the plaintiff was a hotel patron);
- A dangerous condition exists on the premises (norovirus);
- Defendant caused, knew of, or should have known of the alleged dangerous condition (the hotel had notice that norovirus may be on the premises); and
- The dangerous condition caused the plaintiff to suffer injury and/or other damages (the hotel’s breach of reasonable care towards the plaintiff caused the norovirus to spread).
Plaintiffs have the burden to prove negligence “by a preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the plaintiffs’ injury.
Since there are usually several victims of a norovirus outbreak, they may want to consider banding together and suing the hotel in a Nevada “class action” lawsuit. This could simplify the process and speed up settlement talks.