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Wilson v. American Trans Air Inc.

decided: April 20, 1989.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, No. IP86-197C, Larry J. McKinney, Judge.

Posner, Coffey, and Ripple, Circuit Judges.

Author: Ripple

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge

Dorothy and Louie Wilson instituted this diversity action against American Trans Air, Inc., Holiday Inns, Inc., and Humphreys (Cayman) Ltd. in order to recover damages for injuries Mrs. Wilson suffered as a result of a criminal assault that occurred while the Wilsons were vacationing in the Cayman Islands. They were participants in a tour planned by American Trans Air, and the assault occurred while they were guests at a Holiday Inn on Grand Cayman Island operated by Humphreys. The district court granted American Trans Air's summary judgment motion, denied the Wilsons' motion to amend their complaint, and dismissed with prejudice their complaint against American Trans Air. On April 6, 1988, final judgment in favor of American Trans Air was entered pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This appeal followed. We Arm the judgment of the district court.



American Trans Air (American) is a charter tour operator headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. It regularly plans and operates tours to the Cayman Islands. Participants in these tours are offered accommodations at the Holiday Inn Grand Cayman International Beach Resort (Holiday Inn Grand Cayman), operated by Humphreys (Cayman) Ltd. under a franchise agreement with Holiday Inns, Inc. American sometimes sponsors two or three trips to the Cayman Islands per month and has included, as an option, accommodations at the Humphreys hotel in its tours since at least 1976. One employee of American always accompanies the tours to the Caymans and stays with the tour group at the Humphreys hotel.

Mr. and Mrs. Wilson participated in an American tour to the Cayman Islands in October 1984. They chose to stay at the Humphreys hotel. On October 30, Mrs. Wilson was assaulted by an intruder entering her second floor hotel room through a balcony door while she was asleep. The intruder attempted to rob and rape Mrs. Wilson, and she suffered bodily injuries during the attack.

The majority of participants in these tours apparently do not choose to purchase an optional "ground package" that includes accommodations at a local hotel (in this case, Humphreys). However, promotional materials for this trip did include references to accommodations at the Holiday Inn Grand Cayman. In addition, brochures, rate cards, and other promotional material are provided to American by Humphreys at American's request. The Wilsons also assert that, since 1978, American has published advertisements for 131 tours specifically offering accommodations at the Humphreys hotel.

American did conduct basic research regarding its tours. It attempted to gain information about the political stability and climate of the destination country. It apparently did not inquire into guest safety and security at the hotel. The Wilsons allege that there was substantial criminal activity involving guests at the Humphreys hotel in the months preceding the attack on Mrs. Wilson, see Appellants' Br. at 10, but American disclaims any knowledge of such activity.



The Wilsons maintain that American is liable to them because it breached its duty as a charter tour operator to investigate proposed accommodations for safety and to warn prospective patrons of any dangerous conditions discovered during the investigation. The Wilsons submit that this duty arises out of contractual language contained in American's travel brochure, the federal regulations governing charter tour operators, and tort law. The contract allegedly gives American, as a charter tour operator, the duties of an innkeeper, while the Wilsons contend that principles of Indiana tort law require American to conduct a reasonable investigation into facilities and warn of any dangerous conditions that could affect guests. The district court properly rejected these arguments and granted summary judgment to American.

The Wilsons also attempted to amend their complaint to include a count alleging that American and Humphreys were joint venturers with respect to the hotel accommodations offered to participants in American's tours to the Cayman Islands. The district court denied the Wilsons' motion to amend, and we conclude that it did not abuse its ...

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