Shower Bench Collapse Isn’t Hotel Owner’s Fault

     NASHVILLE (CN) – A Holiday Inn owner is not liable to a paraplegic guest who hurt his back when the shower bench he was using collapsed, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled.
     Greg Parker and his wife Diane stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Harriman, Tenn., in 2010. Parker is paralyzed from the waist down because of a logging-truck accident, so the couple rented a handicap accessible room, according to the ruling.
     Parker noticed that the shower bench was loose and requested a new room, but was told that no other handicap accessible rooms were available. He was assured that the bench would be fixed.
     Ms. Parker testified that the shower bench “seemed stronger” after hotel staff tightened it, but the bench collapsed the next morning while her husband was showering, causing compression fractures to three of his vertebrae.
     The Parkers sued Holiday Inn Express in 2011 and also named the hotel’s owner, Shashi Patel individually and dba S.P. Partnership, as a defendant.
     In addition to granting the hotel summary judgment, the Roane County Circuit Court also cleared Patel, noting that “property owners are generally not liable for an independent contractor’s negligence unless the property owner knew of and accepted defective materials or negligent work,” according to the Supreme Court ruling.
     Though the Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed, finding it “plausible” that Patel knew about the dangerous condition of the shower bench, the state Supreme Court reinstated the circuit court’s ruling on Friday. It said Patel simply hired a contractor to build a hotel and did not know about the defective shower bench.
     “Mr. Patel had never received any complaints about the shower bench in room 229 or about any of the other shower benches at the hotel,” Justice Cornelia Clark wrote for the court. “Nor had any other shower bench at the hotel ever previously collapsed. The defective installation was concealed behind a sheetrock wall and was not visible to Mr. Patel or any hotel staff after construction was completed.”
     Tennessee law did not require Patel to inspect the hotel construction work after its completion, the state’s high court ruled.
     The Parkers have not appealed the January 2013 summary judgment order for Holiday Hospitality Franchising Inc. dba Holiday Inn Express, the court noted.
     Though the company added D & S Builders LLC, the company that installed the shower bench, as a defendant in an amended complaint, the claims against that contractor were dismissed because the statute of repose expired.

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