A former guest of the Sofitel Hotel in Philadelphia has been awarded compensation for emotional distress due to hotel negligence following a court hearing.
In November 2012, Heather Baumgardner was celebrating her thirtieth birthday by staying at the Sofitel Hotel in Philadelphia. On 11th November, at around 4:00am in the morning, Heather´s ex-boyfriend Christopher Werley entered the hotel and identified himself as Heather´s boyfriend and asked for a key to her room.
As Werley was not a registered guest, the front-desk manager made a call to Heather´s room. When she did not answer, the night manager accompanied Werley to her room and tried to gain access using a master key. On finding that the safety chain was in place, the night manager contacted the security supervisor who used bolt cutters to cut the chain and gain access to where Heather was sleeping.
The night manager and the security advisor then left – leaving Werley alone in the room with Heather. Allegedly, Werley went through Heather´s birthday gifts while she was sleeping, and was texting sexually explicit messages to men registered on her mobile phone when she awoke. Heather screamed and ordered Werley to leave. Heather subsequently called the police and claimed compensation for emotional distress due to hotel negligence.
In her legal action against the Sofitel Hotel and its owners – Accor North America Inc. – Heather claimed that she had suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to its lack of security. An expert supporting her claim reported that the hotel had violated multiple industry and security standards by allowing Werley into her room, while Heather´s lawyer alleged that the hotel had shown reckless disregard and cared more about its profits than the safety of its guests.
The claim for compensation for emotional distress due to hotel negligence was disputed by the defendants. It was claimed that Heather was not entirely honest about her relationship with Werley (the couple restarted their romantic relationship about four months after the event) and that she had come to no physical harm. The case went to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas where it was heard by a jury before Judge Angelo J. Foglietta.
During two weeks of testimony, Heather´s claim for compensation for emotional distress due to hotel negligence was supported by her doctor and psychologist – both of whom testified that Heather had suffered from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder, hypervigilance, and paranoia. At the end of the hearing Judge Foglietta instructed the jury to find in Heather´s favor; and, after five hours of deliberations, the jury awarded Heather $25,000 compensation for emotional distress due to hotel negligence.