The Marriott hotel chain has, rightfully, been on the receiving side of a public backlash after filing legal documents that appear to blame a rape victim for her own attack. The allegation comes from attorneys of the Marriott’s insurance company, who, in a motion, claimed that a 40-year-old mother who was sexually assaulted in front of her children at the Marriott in Stamford, Connecticut “failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities.”
The original incident took place in 2006 at a Marriott franchise in Stamford, Connecticut. The victim, known only as Jane Doe, was strapping her two toddlers into car seats in the hotel’s parking garage when Gary Fricker, armed with a gun, approached her and sexually assaulted her. When she resisted his attack, Fricker then threatened to sexually assault one of her young children. The attack only ended when another guest drove up and the Doe was able to escape by screaming for help.
Fricker, who had been arrested at least 20 times previously, had been hanging around the hotel’s garage and lobby for several days without ever being removed by security. He was arrested three days after the incident and is now serving a 20 year prison sentence for the crime.
Jane Doe then sued the hotel, a franchisee of the Bethesda, MD based Marriott chain, for a paltry $15,000 in damages due to their negligent security. That was when things turned ugly. In a “special defense” filed in the Stamford, CT superior court, aside from claiming that Doe “failed to exercise due care” for her safety before the rape, the hotel also subpoenaed many of Doe’s acquaintances, including a Pilates instructor, a babysitter and tennis partners, all of whom had been previously unaware of the victim’s sexual assault. The victim’s attorneys have argued that asking people who have nothing to do with the case to testify was merely an underhanded attempt to intimidate the victim.
Facing a PR nightmare when the news broke, the Marriott Corporation has since retracted the motions and issued the following statement:
“It was a mistake to suggest that the victim of this tragic incident was responsible for the vicious crime against her. As soon as we learned that this offensive language was included by the insurance company’s defense lawyers in their response to Ms. Doe’s civil suit, we asked that it be withdrawn and it was on Monday, August 17.
This incident is not reflective of our corporate culture or ethical standards, and we apologize to all of our guests and customers who were so deeply offended by the words used in the legal pleading.”
Unfortunately, blaming the victim is a common defense that insurance companies try to use all too to get out of paying damages. If you or someone you know as been sexually assaulted or otherwise injured on commercial property, you may well be like Jane Doe and have a premises liability case. Call (404) 531-9700 for more information about your legal rights.