Innkeeper in Georgia has no legal duty to check on health of guest
Today the Supreme Court of Georgia held, in a 4-3 decision, that notwithstanding a moral obligation to do so, a motel manager has no legal duty to investigate the health of a guest on the request of a family member.
In the case of RASNICK v. KRISHNA HOSPITALITY, INC., a 77 year old man from Texas was staying at a motel in Jesup while on a work assignment in Georgia, and spoke with his wife several times per day. When his wife was unable to contact him in several attempts one evening, she repeatedly asked the motel staff to check on him because she was concerned about his health. The motel staff repeatedly refused.
The next morning a motel housekeeper found him on the floor of his room, unresponsive. An ambulance took him to a hospital where he soon expired due to heart problems. A cardiologist testified that would have survived had he received medical treatment the previous evening when his wife was begging the motel management to check on him.
While an innkeeper may have a legal duty to provide reasonable assistance to guest whose illness is observed, the Court held that it has no duty to investigate the possibility of an illness that is not observed.
To require that an innkeeper monitor in any manner the possible health problems of a guest, which are not caused by or are unrelated to the stay at the facility, is not only unwarranted as a matter of law but unworkable as a matter of fact and practicality. Pretermitting significant policy considerations including the potential fiscal impact on the hotel/motel industry, threshold issues would include questions involving the scope of the duty and possible triggering events. What type of inquiry would or should cause the innkeeper to inquire into the guest’s state of health and from whom? Would the triggering inquiry have to be from a family member or would a friend or colleague or anyone with ostensible concern about the guest’s health situation suffice? Such questions become crucial because issues implicating the guest’s privacy are extant. . . .
While issues of morality and humanity are certainly raised by the circumstances of this case, a moral or humane obligation does not compel the existence of a legal duty, the breach of which portends liability. . . . To conclude otherwise in this case would be an epitomization of the adage “bad facts make bad law.” In light of a legislative reluctance to do so and in recognition of clear considerations of policy and pragmatism, we decline to judicially engraft into the caselaw of this State, the additional duty upon innkeepers to investigate or check on their guests to determine if they are in medical need, as urged by Rasnick. This holding is sufficient to decide this case, and thus, we need not determine now whether any duty to render or summon medical aid as may be set forth in Section 314 (A) (2) should be adopted in Georgia.