Claims Over Chandelier Crash Will More Forward

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A woman who claims she was “battered, struck and injured by blood, brain and other debris” when a hotel chandelier fell on her infant granddaughter’s head may pursue some negligence claims against hotel and its contractors, a federal judge ruled.
     Though the fixture narrowly missed her, Selena Gillespie claimed she suffered severe emotional trauma when it came crashing down on her baby granddaughter, who was sitting in her lap at the time.
     The incident happened in the ballroom of the Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel, where Gillespie said she and her granddaughter were guests at a family reunion.
     The extent of the child’s injuries are not clear from the court documents, which indicate a separate suit has been filed on her behalf.
     “Defendants knew that there would be large gatherings of people congregating under these lighting fixtures creating a heightened duty to make sure that the renovations were performed properly and resulted in a safe environment,” Gillespie said in her complaint.
     “Despite this heightened duty, defendants proceeded with a reckless decision to hang large, heavy blocks of Plexiglas held up by minimal fasteners, with no framework or other supporting structure,” Gillespie continued. “These custom, decorative flourishes may have comported with their aesthetic objectives, but left a high probability, nearing certainty, that the fixtures would fail, fall and injure.”
     U.S. District Judge James Cacheris noted in his July 14 ruling that “innkeepers owe their guests a heightened duty of care, similar to the duty owed by a common carrier to its passengers.”
     But he also observed that the plaintiff offered only the barest of support for her claims, particularly in regard to those directed at the contractors who installed the chandelier.
     “Regardless, the court has determined that plaintiff is entitled to discovery based on the allegations in her amended complaint,” Cacheris wrote. “That is not to say that the court does not have its doubts about the ultimate merits of plaintiff’s claim [the contractors], as many important questions surrounding this bizarre sequence of events remain.”
     Gillespie is seeking $500,000 in negligence claims against hotel owner and operator Ashford Hospitality Prime and Ashford Gateway TRS Group. She is also suing Humphrey Rich Construction Group, jointly and severally, for negligent repairs to the fixture during its “Marriott Renovation Project,” which was not dated in Tuesday’s ruling.
     Gillespie is represented by Richard James Serpe, while Ashford is represented by Franklin & Prokopik and Humphrey Rich is represented by Robert Harrington. Neither counsel for the defense responded to a request for comment from Courthouse News.

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