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DE LEMA v. WALDORF ASTORIA HOTEL

May 14, 1984

JOSE MARIA BERGA DE LEMA, Plaintiff, against WALDORF ASTORIA HOTEL, INC., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAIGHT

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HAIGHT, District Judge:

 In this action brought within the Court's diversity jurisdiction, a hotel guest sues a New York City hotel owner for the theft of an attache case containing jewelry, which occurred while the guest was in the process of registering.Following depositions, both parties move for summary judgment. The case turns upon the proper construction and application of the innkeeper statute enacted in New York, section 200 of the General Business Law, 19 McKinney's Consol. L. of N.Y. (1968).

 I.

 On October 30, 1982 plaintiff Jose Maria Berga de Lema, a Brazilian resident, arrived in New York City. His luggage consisted of three suitcases, an attache case, and a cylindrical bag. The attache case and the cyclindrical bag contained jewels. Plaintiff says the jewels in the case exceeded $300,000 in value. Plaintiff went from JFK Airport to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (the "Hotel"), maintained by defendant, where he had a reservation.

 Plaintiff handed over the three suitcases to hotel staff in the garage. He then ascended to the lobby, carrying the attache case and cylindrical bag, and first encountered an assistant manager, Mr. Baez, sitting behind a desk with a sign proclaiming his title. Plaintiff told Baez he had a reservation. Baez rang a bell and summoned a room clerk, Mr. Tamburino, to assist plaintiff. Plaintiff carried the case and bag from Baez's desk to a place at the counter opposite Tamburino, and put them on the floor.

 Plaintiff gave this account in his deposition:

 Q. What did Mr. Tamburino say to you, if anything, when you were facing him at position number two?

 A. He asked me if I had a reservation. I said, "Yes. The name is Jose Berga de Lema."

 And I said, "I want a safety deposit box."

 He said, "Please fill out your registration."

 The first thing I inquired about was a safety deposit box.

 Q. He gave you a registration form to ...


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