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Danile v. Oak Park Arms Hotel

DECEMBER 29, 1964.




Appeal from the Municipal Court of the Village of Oak Park; the Hon. THOMAS W. BARRETT, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


Rehearing denied January 19, 1965.

This is an appeal from a judgment entered on a verdict, June 14, 1963, in the Municipal Court of the Village of Oak Park, where the defendant-appellant was found negligent in the manner in which it operated its Hotel and was ordered to pay the plaintiff-appellee the sum of $25,000.

The appellee was a guest in the appellant Hotel while here to visit her fiance's family when in the early morning hours of January 30, 1960, she was raped by a bellboy employed by the Hotel. At the trial below, both the bellboy and the Hotel were parties defendant. The jury found for the appellee and against both appellants. Only the Hotel appeals from the judgment entered below.

The evidence introduced at the trial, taken in the light most favorable to the appellee, shows that the Hotel employed as a bellboy one Ronald James Mulligan, 17 years of age. Mulligan had been employed by the Hotel for some six months prior to the occurrence and during that time his employers had no reason to suspect him of any misconduct. There had been no complaints concerning his behavior during the period of his employment.

According to Mulligan, one of the guests of the Hotel asked him to bring some ice up to his room. This was done about 10:00 o'clock in the evening. Mulligan testified that he was offered a drink by the occupants of the room and took three or four gulps from a bottle. It was then stated that Mulligan returned to work.

Mulligan testified further that about 3:00 o'clock in the morning he assisted a guest of the Hotel by loading his luggage into a taxi while the guest remained in the Hotel. When Mulligan returned, the guest requested him to get a glass and some ice and asked him to have a drink. Mulligan did so.

About 4:00 o'clock in the morning, one of the guests in the room to which Mulligan had originally delivered the ice invited him up for another drink. He stayed with that guest for another hour during which time he said he had another three or four drinks.

According to his testimony, Mulligan then went behind the Hotel desk to obtain a pass key which was located there. He looked through the register for the name of a girl. He said he was interested in finding a woman who was alone. He found the appellee's name and went up to her room.

He got the pass key from a ring on a hook behind the desk which faced the lobby of the Hotel. In order to get to the key behind the desk, it was necessary to enter from the rear passing a switchboard which was immediately behind the Hotel desk. Both a switchboard operator and a night desk man were on duty at the time.

The appellee had returned to her room earlier that evening after spending the evening with her fiance and his mother. She testified that she was awakened by the weight of Mulligan on top of her. She screamed and tried to get away, but being unable to do so, she told Mulligan he could have her money or anything else in the room. Mulligan apparently made no answer, but raped the appellee and then ran out of the room. The attack took place about 5:00 o'clock in the morning. Mulligan went to the Hotel lounge, vomited, and fell asleep.

The appellee called her fiance and he came to the Hotel and informed the manager of what had happened. The manager called the police and they found Mulligan asleep in the Hotel lounge. Between the time of the attack on the appellee and the time the police came, Mulligan had been awakened by one of the Hotel employees to deliver the morning papers to the guests by leaving them in front of the doors to the rooms, and had then returned to sleep.

Mulligan was then questioned by the police, and he confessed his crime. This interview took place at the Hotel in the presence of the Hotel officials. A statement was taken later that morning at the police station.

It is the appellant's theory of the case that it was not negligent and therefore there is no liability on its part for the occurrence of which the appellee complains. It says it had no previous knowledge of misconduct on the part of Mulligan and that no one on duty knew that he was drinking that night. The appellant also claims that the jury was improperly instructed in that Plaintiff's Instruction 2 told the jury that the Hotel owed the appellee a high degree of care while the law of this state is that a hotel owes its guests ordinary care. ...

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