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SUKHMINDER SINGH BHATTAL v. GRAND HYATT-NEW YORK

May 18, 1983

SUKHMINDER SINGH BHATTAL and MOHINDER KAUR BHATTAL, Plaintiffs,
v.
GRAND HYATT-NEW YORK, and HYATT CORPORATION, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRIEANT

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Brieant, J.

 Defendant, an innkeeper, seeks summary judgment in its favor in this alienage case, regulated by New York law. Plaintiffs, residents and citizens of India, registered as guests in defendant's Grand Hyatt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan on July 19, 1981 and were assigned Room 2946. *fn1"

 Following the customary practice in first class hotels in this City of the sort operated by defendant, plaintiffs turned over to the bell captain various pieces of personal luggage, which are now said to have contained valuables of great significance, and this luggage was duly transferred by defendant's employees to plaintiffs' assigned hotel room.

 Plaintiffs did not request that any of their valuables be placed in the safe depository provided by the hotel, nor did they enter into any "special agreement" with the hotel concerning their valuables, as is contemplated by § 200 of the New York General Business Law.

 Shortly after arriving at their room with the luggage, plaintiffs left the hotel for luncheon with friends, locking their door with a key provided by defendant. On returning earlier the same evening, plaintiffs discovered that their luggage and the contents thereof were missing.

 All things in the modern world which go wrong for reasons other than the application of Murphy's Law, seem to go wrong because of a particular sort of mechanical malevolence known as "computer error." Apparently defendant's front desk relies heavily on computer support, and as a result of computer error, employees of defendant transported plaintiffs' luggage from plaintiffs' room to JFK International Airport, along with the luggage of aircraft crew members of Saudi Arabian nationality, who had previously occupied Room 2946. In other words, the computer omitted to notice that the room had been vacated and relet to plaintiffs, and hotel employees responding to computer direction, included plaintiffs' luggage along with the other luggage of the departing prior guests. This is not to suggest that the Grand Hyatt-New York is a hotbed house, but apparently it was operating at 100% occupancy with no lost time between the departure of the Saudi Arabian aircraft crew members who had previously occupied the room, and the arrival of plaintiffs.

 Needless to say, plaintiffs' luggage departed for Saudi Arabia and has not since been seen. A missing pearl is always a pearl of the finest water, and accordingly plaintiffs demand damages in the amount of $250,000.00, together with costs and attorneys fees.

 There seem to be no disputed issue of fact as to what happened to the luggage.

 Defendant's motion relies on § 200 of the New York General Business Law, which reads in relevant part as follows:

 " § 200. Safes; limited liability

 Whenever the proprietor or manager of any hotel, motel, inn or steamboat shall provide a safe in the office of such hotel, motel or steamboat, or other convenient place for the safe keeping of any money, jewels, ornaments, bank notes, bonds, negotiable securities or precious stones, belonging to the guests of or travelers in such hotel, motel, inn or steamboat, and shall notify the guests or travelers thereof by posting a notice stating the fact that such safe is provided, in which such property may be deposited, in a public and conspicuous place and manner in the office and public rooms, and in the public parlors of such hotel, motel, or inn, or saloon of such steamboat; and if such guest or traveler shall neglect to deliver such property, to the person in charge of such office for deposit in such safe, the proprietor or manager of such hotel, motel, or steamboat shall not be liable for any loss of such property, sustained by such guest or traveler by theft or otherwise; but no hotel, motel or steamboat proprietor, manager or lessee shall be obliged to receive property on deposit for safe keeping, exceeding five hundred dollars in value; and if such guest or traveler shall deliver such property, to the person in charge of such office for deposit in such safe, said proprietor, manager or lessee shall not be liable for any loss thereof, sustained by such guest or traveler by theft or otherwise, in any sum exceeding the sum of five hundred dollars unless by special agreement in writing with such proprietor, manager or lessee."

 Section 201 of the New York General Business Law, also of interest here, provides ...


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