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Thefts from hotel rooms are thankfully not an everyday occurrence, but when such a crime is committed, who, if anyone, is liable to pay compensation can become an issue, especially as the perpetrators, even if caught, frequently turn out to be penniless. In a recent case, a woman succeeded in winning substantial damages when her prized jewellery collection was stolen from her hotel room as she slept.
The recently widowed woman, aged in her 70s, had been staying in a seaside hotel during a family reunion. In the early hours, two thieves crept into her room and stole her jewellery from her bedside table. Amongst items taken were two rings, worth about £8,000, and her late husband's retirement watch and wedding ring.
In finding the owner of the hotel liable for her loss, a judge noted that there had been a previous spate of thefts from guests' rooms. He rejected claims that the woman had absent-mindedly left her door ajar, concluding that the thieves had probably obtained a key to the room and used it to gain entry.
Although there was a safety deposit box behind the hotel's reception, the woman was under no obligation to use it and, in the belief that she was safe behind a locked door, she had acted quite reasonably in placing her jewellery on her bedside table. She was awarded total damages of £12,781.