Laws laid down by supreme court

Hotel responsible for safety of car kept in their parking

Hotel responsible for safety of car kept in their parking

We have a case with us decided in the year 2018 on the subject in the matter of   Taj Mahal Hotel Versus United India Insurance Co. Ltd. & Ors. I (2018) Cpj 546 (NC) decided by Mrs. M. Shreesha, Presiding Member in which all the above points are discussed in detail for coming to logical conclusion

First question of consideration before the National Commission now in appeal was as to whether complainant is a consumer under Consumer Protection Act. Keeping in view all the facts and judgments, National Commission held that valet parking services are provided by the Hotel for the convenience of its guests .From the moment a person receives a thing pertaining to another with the obligation to safely keep it ,he is bound to  return it in the same condition as taken.. The plea that no separate fee is charged for the parking is misconceived because  the Valet facility, is one of the services offered by the Hotel for the comfort and convenience of its guests, for  alluring them  to visit the Hotel’

On the other issue of volet /docket with parking at your risk -concept of ‘owner’s risk’ does not completely set free the Hotel. National Commission refereed to the decided case by the Hon’ble Supreme court on the issue in the matter and the observations made by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Nath Bros. Exim International Ltd. V. Best Roadways Ltd., I (2000) CPJ 25 (SC), explaining ‘owner’s risk’ in a contract of bailment. –

!) “OWNER`S RISK” and, therefore, if any loss was caused to the goods, may be on account of fire, which suddenly engulfed the neighboring warehouse and spread to the go down where the goods in question were stored, the carrier would not be liable.

In the present case, such is not the situation of any natural calamity

!!). “OWNER`S RISK” in the realm of commerce has a positive meaning. It is understood in the sense that the carrier would not be liable for damage or loss to the goods if it were not caused on account of carrier‘s own negligence or the negligence of its servants and agents

But in the present case, facts reveal that it was the negligence of the agent of the hotel to leave the keys on the counter and a boy fled away with the car after picking up keys from the counter. FIR states clearly that theft happened in the presence of employees of hotel or agent it is pertinent to note that in the statement made before the police it was clearly stated that the guard tried to stop the thief but he drove away immediately. The same fact was also reiterated by the Hotel in their Affidavit filed before the State Commission.

!!!) Those who visit Five Star hotels and use the car parking facilities are aware that after the car keys are given to the valet there is hardly any time for the consumer to read docket conditions written on the reverse of the docket because there would be a fleet of cars entering and exiting from the hotel.  More so, it is one sided imposing on the customer and he does not sign or agree to the same.

!V)  Other point establishing responsibility by act –It is given an understanding to those who park their car that their vehicles would not removed without following prescribed procedures. As a prescribed procedure, a card is issued on entering the parking area which is to be returned to the security at the entry of the parking area. This procedure itself establishes that security is bound to take care of the vehicle during it keeps with them. If the security guard allows a vehicle to leave the parking area without having returned the card, it would amount to negligence as is the case here in this matter.

V) Principal of bailment- that the law regarding bailment applies when a customer transfers the possession, care and/or control of his car to another person (bailee) for a limited time and for a special purpose. Merely writing ‘owner’s risk’ at the back of a token does not completely exonerate the Hotel from any act of deficiency of service as neither was the Car Owner put to specific notice that any damage/loss occurred to his car would be at his risk, nor was there any kind of a Board at the entrance proclaiming that the management was not responsible for the theft of the car which was prominently displayed. If the hotel authorities cannot keep the car safely they should have put a big board at the entrance of the hotel proclaiming “Beware giving car keys to the valet of this hotel does not ensure safety of your car, Management is not responsible for theft of the car”. 

This has not been done by the hotel. 

 Court Finally HELD;

The concept of infra hospitium, a Latin term meaning “within the Hotel” has been discussed in various judgments wherein the liability of Hotel/Innkeepers/restaurant owners was laid down... While the tag had the name of the Hotel on it, the Car Owner could have reasonably inferred that his car was in the ‘duty of care’ and ‘custody’ of the Hotel.

Keeping in view the submissions that the insured amount was already paid by the Insurance Company to the Car Owner and that the Hotel has paid to the Car Owner an amount of 1, 00,000 in pursuance of the order dated 12.1.2017 by this Commission, the order of the State Commission is maintained by making minor changes in the rate of interest to be paid

 It is pertinent to note that this court as well as in Bombay Brazzerie v. Mulchand Agarwal, I (2003) CPJ 4 (NC), and the courts maintained that complainant cannot be paid twice for the loss. He can either be paid by Insurance or by the Hotel for his actual loss. But Hotel cannot be absolved from the responsibility of paying compensation for the mental harassment one undergoes. Hence in the present case also Rs 1, 00,000/- is directed to be paid to the complainant apart from the cost of car as paid by insurance company. Similar was the order passed in  

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