Austrian Supreme Court: hotel liable for theft from safe in hotel room

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The plaintiffs (a German couple) sued a Vienna 4 star hotel company for compensation of more than EUR 160.000 of valuables stolen from the safe in their hotel room. When they had asked at the reception where to keep their valuables, the receptionist had told them to use the safe in their room. This safe had to be locked and unlocked by a code of four numbers chosen by the plaintiffs. However, the safe could also be opened by using a 'mastercode'. This mastercode for emergency cases had not been changed by the hotel management for almost two years and was known by no less than 16 of the current employees and an unclear number of former employees. Because of earlier thefts from hotel rooms, police had already urged the hotel manager to increase safety standards.

Dismissing the hotel's appeal, the Austrian Supreme Court upheld the judgements of the lower courts, holding the hotel company liable for the theft: As guests of a 4 star hotel who had explicitly asked for a way to safely store their valuables, they could have expected that an emergency code would not be known to a vast number of current and former employees. As regards potential contributory negligence of the plaintiffs who - as the hotel stated - had not mentioned the extraordinary value of the items to be stored, the Supreme Court held that the hotel had not explained which saftey measures would have been taken if the actual value had been known. Thus there was no causal conncetion between the potential failure and the damage.

Supreme Court decision 1 Ob 119/11 of July 21, 2011 available in German here>>.

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