Licensor-Licensee Duties & Responsibilities Issue
Re: Hotel Shooting Deaths

By R. Britton Colbert, CHA, CHIA

Case Synopsis

A double-death shooting occurred in the lobby of a 154-room, major chain affiliated hotel located in Orlando. Plaintiff counsel retained hotel operations expert R. Britton Colbert, CHA, CHIA to focus on the duties and responsibilities of the hotel licensor and the licensee regarding safety and security specifically for the subject hotel and the broader accepted practices by both the licensor and the licensee, based on his experience with hotel franchise operations.

Expert’s Analysis

Evaluation of the discovery established the following facts: The licensing company had an organized license operation including franchise agreements, standards, and rules & regulations mandated to be adhered to by the licensee. The licensor completed only cursory due diligence and approval of the licensee. Licensor failed to enforce the mandated certification requirements for the general manager and failed to enforce the customary regional support services provided to licensees, both actions which likely would have provided needed operational assistance and recommendations. The licensee provided no hotel security, conducted no area crime analysis nor established any working relationship with law enforcement agents. Further contributing to the operational failure of the hotel and creating a dangerous work environment was the absence of any background checks, which would have revealed the criminal history of the shooter, who was working as casual labor in landscaping. The CCTV monitors did not cover sufficient portions of the property to record prior harassment by the employee. Licensee was defiant in accepting accepted hotel operating practices and the licensor ignored known franchise agreement violations. Had the safety and security standards, as well as the many operating directives from the licensor, been properly executed, then more likely than not the shooting deaths would have been avoided.

Case Results

Matter settled post my deposition.

Key Factors

It was clearly established that the licensor exhibited substantial and material operating control over the licensee via the franchise agreement, standards, and rules & regulations, which are customary in the lodging industry, notwithstanding the licensor’s failure to enforce their own written standards.

R. Britton Colbert has 35+ years of hotel industry experience, including direct operating responsibility for nine hotels in California, Washington, Illinois and Texas. He has consulted or testified in federal, state, municipal courts and for the Baltimore Police Commission. Frequent matters include franchise issues, wrongful death from fire, drowning, shooting incidents, and assaults, as well as accounting/financial and condemnation matters for the hotel industry. Mr. Colbert currently holds a real estate license from California, and the CHA and CHIA certifications from the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.