Austria: Supreme Court decides on innkeeper’s liability with regard to theft from hotel garage

As a hotel guest, the plaintiff – a professional photographer – had parked his car in the hotel garage. Several signs in the garage were saying”The hotel does not accept any liablity with regard to cars parked here nor with regard to their content. Please deposit your valuables at the hotel reception”.However, when the plaintiff told the receptionist that he had left his precious phtographic equipment in the car, she assured him that the garage was safe and monitored by video. The next day, the plaintiff found his car unlocked and empty. He sued the hotel company for compensation of his loss.The defendant argued that the photographic equipment had not been “brought in” to the hotel in the meaning of sec 970 Austrian Civil Code (ABGB) – which provides for liability of the inkeeper regarding any items “brought in” by a guest – because against the advice on the signs the equipment had not been deposited at the reception.The Supreme Court (OGH) upheld the lower instances’ decisions that though in principle the signs placed in the garage could have excluded the hotel company’s innkeeper liability, by the advice to the contrary given by the receptionist, the hotel company had retracted any exclusion of liability which thus had become invalid. The fact that the plaintiff had not told the receptionist any details about the equipment but just mentioned that it was “precious” would not constitute contributory negligence on his part.Full text of judgement 2 Ob 220/10g of Nov. 29, 2011 available in German here>>.

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