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Court reinstates negligence charge against hotel in beating

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A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated a negligence charge filed by a man who was beaten and his arm broken by a gang in a hotel lobby.

Henry Mu lived in a condominium complex adjoining the Omni Providence Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, which is operated by Dallas-based Omni Hotels Management Corp., according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in Henry Mu v. Omni Hotels Management Corp. et al.

Mr. Mu, who had access to the hotel’s services and amenities, visited it almost every day, according to the ruling. In August 2014, the hotel ejected a group of young men holding a loud party. But they returned to the hotel’s driveway after obtaining a case of beer and pursued a passerby after calling him racial epithets.

Mr. Mu, who was standing outside, felt unsafe and entered the lobby. The group of young men stormed in behind him. After Mr. Mu complained about them to the concierge, they punched, shoved and kicked him. Then two of the young men held him down while a third threw a table at him. He was later diagnosed with a broken arm.

Mr. Mu filed suit against the hotel, charging negligence. The District Court in Providence granted the hotel’s motion for summary judgment, holding the attack was not foreseeable and that Omni did not have a duty to prevent the harm Mr. Mu suffered.

A three-judge appeals board panel unanimously reversed the ruling. The harm Mr. Mu suffered was “reasonably foreseeable to Omni,” said the ruling.

“It is far from onerous to expect a hotel to prevent a group of recent evictees, who had demonstrated a propensity for unruly behavior and violence while just outside the hotel (in front of a hotel employee, no less), from assaulting someone in the hotel’s lobby,” said the ruling in overturning the lower court’s ruling. The case was remanded for further proceedings.