Hotels have a duty to take all reasonable measures to prevent “foreseeable” injuries. Fortunately, recent case law in Nevada makes it a little easier for plaintiffs to prove that their injuries were foreseeable. Some common accidents at Las Vegas hotels include:
- Slip-and-falls in Nevada;
- Food poisoning accidents in Nevada;
- Hotel shuttle bus accidents in Nevada; and
- Drowning accidents in Nevada
Las Vegas hotel injury victims typically have only two (2) years after their injury to sue the hotel for negligence. Therefore, it is important they act quickly while their memories are still fresh and video surveillance evidence is available.
To help you better understand the law on Nevada hotel and resort injuries, our Las Vegas Nevada personal injury lawyers discuss the following topics:
- 1. Proving negligence
- 2. Whom you can sue?
- 3. When you can sue?
- 4. What money you can recover?
- 5. What if you were partly to blame?
- 6. What are common hotel injuries?
- 7. How did the Las Vegas Massacre affect hotel liability?
If you or a loved one was injured in the Vegas Massacre on October 1, 2017, see our article about filing a lawsuit for victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
When people get injured at a hotel in Las Vegas, they commonly sue the hotel for negligence. Nevada law requires the victim (“plaintiff) to prove the following four “elements” in order to prove that the hotel (“defendant”) was negligent:
- The hotel had a legal duty of care to the victim;
- The hotel breached that duty;
- The victim’s injuries were proximately caused by this breach of duty; and
- The injury resulted in damages to the victim1
Note that if the victim died of the hotel injury, the victim’s estate and family can bring a Nevada wrongful death lawsuit.
1.1. Legal Duty
Hotels have a basic duty under Nevada law to make sure that their property is safe and free from any threats that may cause injury. Hotels are expected to take all reasonable measures to prevent foreseeable injuries.
Under the recent Nevada case Humphries v. New York, New York, courts take an expansive view of what is “foreseeable.” Specifically:
NRS 651.015 precludes [hotel] liability unless the wrongful act that caused the injuries was foreseeable…a wrongful act is not foreseeable unless the owner or innkeeper failed to exercise due care for the safety of the patron or other person on the premises or had notice or knowledge of prior incidents of similar wrongful acts on the premises … Foreseeability based on the failure to exercise due care does not depend solely on notice or knowledge that a specific wrongful act would occur, but instead is about “the basic minimum precautions that are reasonably expected of an owner or innkeeper.” … And foreseeability based on notice or knowledge of “[p]rior incidents of similar wrongful acts,” … requires a case-by-case analysis of similar wrongful acts, including, without limitation, the level of violence, location of attack, and security concerns implicated.2
Precautions Nevada hotels must take to keep premises safe for guests include (without limitation):
- Keeping hotel rooms and public areas in good repair;
- Reprogramming keys after prior guests check out;
- Complying with Nevada food safety regulations;
- Calling paramedics or trained medical personnel in the event of a medical problem;
- Having a plan to deal with emergencies, such as fires; and
- Complying with Nevada and federal anti-discrimination laws.
According to premises liability laws in Nevada, hotels owe a higher duty of care to its guests (called “invitees”) than it does to trespassers. Trespassers who get injured at a hotel will have a more difficult time proving that the hotel is liable than injured guests would.3
1.2. Breach of Duty
Most Las Vegas hotels do their best to ensure guest and employee safety. But occasionally Las Vegas hotels breach their duty of care.
A breach occurs when the hotel fails to exercise a duty with the degree of care an ordinarily careful and prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.4
Common breaches by Nevada hotels can lead to serious accidents. For example:
Common Causes (Hotel Breaches of Duty)
|Pool accidents in Nevada|
|Rape, theft, or assault|
|Burn Accidents in Nevada|
In order to win a negligence claim against a hotel, it is not enough to show that the hotel dropped the ball. The plaintiff also has to show that this breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Common evidence used to prove causation includes:
- video from surveillance cameras, which are all throughout hotels
- eyewitness accounts and smartphone video
- medical records
- hotel maintenance records
- expert testimony
- the victim’s clothes (if the accident involved wet or muddy floors)
Hotels sometimes wipe their surveillance footage after a few days, so it is imperative that accident victims consult an attorney right away about getting copies of the video before it is erased. Sometimes video footage is the only available evidence that shows that a floor was wet at the time the plaintiff slipped on it.
The final step of proving negligence is for the plaintiff to show that the injury cost damages, which is another word for money. For example, a broken leg from a slip-and-fall typically causes the following damages:
- doctor’s bills
- lost wages from not working
- pain and suffering (which is subjective but can be estimated by lawyers)
If someone slips on a wet floor but does not sustain any injuries other than momentary embarrassment, it would be difficult for that person to prove damages.
When an injury occurs on hotel premises, it is obvious that the victim may try to sue the hotel itself for negligence (discussed above). The corporations that own hotels typically have deep pockets, but this can work both for and against the plaintiff: Corporations may have the ability to offer large settlements, but they also have the ability to pay their lawyers to prolong the litigation for as long as possible.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, people injured in hotels may be able to sue other parties for negligence as well:
Potential Defendants in Negligence Lawsuits (other than the hotel)
|Trampling from poor crowd control|
Note that if the victim was beaten, sexually assaulted, or robbed by another person on hotel premises, the victim may also be able to sue the attackers for battery, assault, and/or theft (conversion).
In general, the statute of limitations in Nevada to bring a negligence lawsuit is two (2) years after the victim discovers his/her injury.5
Oftentimes, victims realize they are injured the moment the accident happens. But in some cases, weeks or months can go by before the victim discovers a medical condition caused by the accident. Examples of silent injuries include stress fractures or hematomas.
Either way, it is important that accident victims consult an attorney as soon as possible so they can begin working on the case right away. The longer victims wait, the less of a chance that their attorneys will be able to find surveillance video and eyewitnesses with sharp memories. Evidence tends to fade with time.
The initial goal of a personal injury attorney is to reach a settlement that covers all of the past and future Nevada compensatory expenses caused by the hotel accident. These include:
- medical-related bills: hospital stays, home health care, doctor’s appointments, rehab, mental health counseling, medication, etc.
- loss wages: any salary, tips, bonuses, and promotions the victim lost out on because of the injury
- loss of future earnings: any salary, tips, bonuses, and promotions the victim will lose out on because of the injury
- pain and suffering
Some of these expenses are easy to prove by producing copies of bills and receipts. But other expenses — such as lost future earnings — require the attorney to project into the future about what the losses will be.
If the case proceeds to a trial, the plaintiff’s personal injury attorneys will be asking the court for not only compensatory damages but also Nevada punitive damages. If the court finds that the hotel personnel acted in a reckless or malicious way, courts may impose punitive damages: The purpose of these damages would be to punish the hotel as well as to deter other hotel staffers from acting in a similarly reckless or malicious way.
One benefit of punitive damages is that they often exceed compensatory damages: In general, punitive damages can be as much as three (3) times the compensatory damages. (If the compensatory damages amount to less than $100,000, then the cap would be $300,000.)6
Depending on the circumstances of the case, people injured in a hotel may still be eligible for money damages even if they contributed to the accident:
5.1. Comparative negligence
Accident victims who were partly at fault for their injury can still win at trial as long as the defendant was at least 50% to blame. Nevada’s comparative negligence laws do not demand that accident victims be perfect in order to recover money damages; rather, they just cannot be more than half to blame.7
Example: Thomas is drunk and ambling through the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. A cleaning person just mopped a section of the floor but forgot to put out the “Caution: Wet Floor” sign. Thomas slips on the wet floor and breaks his coccyx.
Thomas sues Caesars for negligence, and Caesars argues that Thomas was mostly to blame since he was drunk and not paying attention to where he was walking. At trial, the jury finds that Thomas was 50% to blame due to his intoxication. Therefore, Caesars is legally liable for Thomas’s injury since it was also 50% to blame.
Note that plaintiffs who were partly at fault for their injuries will receive less money damages than those who were blameless. In the above example, Thomas’s financial reward would be 50% less than it would be had he not been inebriated.
5.2. Assumption of the risk
Las Vegas hotels are full of opportunities to get hurt. Their pools are drowning risks, their gyms are full of heavy equipment that may fall down, and their bars are hotbeds for drunken brawls. In addition, Las Vegas is known for its thrill-seeking attractions, such as:
- The Stratosphere Skyjump (bungee jumping)
- New York, New York’s Big Apple Roller Coaster
- the Circus Circus Adventuredome
When a plaintiff sues a hotel after getting injured while partaking in these or other activities, the hotel’s legal team may try to argue that the plaintiff “assumed the risk” and knew what he/she was getting to. But even if the plaintiff signed a release waiver, a trial court can still hold the hotel liable if it finds that:
- The plaintiff did not have actual knowledge of the risk involved in the conduct or activity; or
- The plaintiff did fully appreciate the danger resulting from the risk; or
- The plaintiff did not voluntarily accept that risk
Learn more about Nevada assumption of the risk laws.8
Obviously, the type of injury that hotel patrons sustain depends in part on the type of accident they have:
It is vital that accident victims get medical help as soon as possible and never miss a follow-up doctor’s appointment. These medical records are vital evidence that may persuade the hotel to offer a generous settlement.
Settlement negotiations are still ongoing between MGM Resorts and the hundreds of victims and their families who were affected by the October 1, 2017 shooting during the Route 91 Harvest Festival. But the talk is that MGM is willing to pay about $800 million.
58 people died and 546 were injured by a gunman who managed to sneak an arsenal into his Mandalay Bay hotel room with non-shatterproof glass windows and shoot hundreds of bullets for several minutes into an outdoor event space that offered no protection for patrons.9 The shooting represents a failure of MGM’s construction and security. MGM knows a trial would be corporate suicide and that its only choice is to pay big.
The majority of negligence lawsuits against hotels resolve with a confidential settlement, so it is difficult to estimate how much money plaintiffs may receive in a particular case. But it can potentially be very high:
In 2018, a court-ordered MGM to pay the plaintiff more than half a million dollars for injuries sustained after a sign fell on him by the Mandalay Bay pool. In that case however, the plaintiff would have done better to settle: Prior to trial, the MGM offered him $2.5 million.11
Injured at a Las Vegas hotel? Call us for help…
To speak to one of our lawyers, fill out the form on this page or call us. One of our Nevada hotel accident lawyers will get back to you promptly to discuss your case and your best course of action.
Injured in Colorado? Learn about filing Denver hotel injury lawsuits.
- Turner v. Mandalay Sports Entertainment, 124 Nev. 213, 180 P.3d 1172 (2008).
- Humphries v. New York, New York, 133 Nev. Advance Opinion 77 (2017); see, e.g., NRS 651.015 on the civil liability of innkeepers for injury or death to non-employees.
- Hammerstein v. Jean Dev. West, 111 Nev. 1471, 907 P.2d 975 (1995); NRS 41.515; NRS 41.1305.
- Nevada Jury Instructions 4.03.
- NRS 11.190.
- NRS 42.005.
- NRS 41.141.
- See Note 1.
- Las Vegas Review-Journal coverage.
- Humphries v. New York, New York, 133 Nev. Advance Opinion 77 (2017).
- Associated Press, Jury awards $524K in lawsuit after Mandalay Bay offered $2.5M, Las Vegas Review-Journal (November 20, 2018).