Video highlights liability for New Mexico hotels

A few years ago, a video made by guests at a New Mexico hotel made local news and was widely viewed online.

Because it involved potential safety issues at a hotel, the incident remains a lesson in premises liability. This legal concept differs somewhat from state to state, and New Mexico has its own rules regarding injury-causing mishaps that occur on someone else's property.

An unusual security arrangement

Two men checked into a Gallup hotel in 2016, only to have another guest unlock their door and stroll into the men's room. They soon realized every guest's key allowed entry into every other guest's room.

After the men posted a video of themselves demonstrating the problem, the hotel chain told a Gallup news outlet that the chain had ended their relationship with the owners of that particular location.

"The operator failed to uphold the high standards we place on guest safety and security," the company told the news outlet.

Some basics of New Mexico premises liability

New Mexico has relatively common-sense rules regarding an owner's responsibilities when someone is on their property.

An owner is expected to keep a reasonably safe property. This "duty of care" includes ordinary steps to keep visitors safe from harm by third parties. For example, a hotel owner would be responsible for ensuring that guests are reasonably protected from crime such as assault or theft.

New Mexico is a "comparative negligence" state, so it's possible people on the owner's property to share some responsibility for losses or harm they suffer, depending on the circumstances. The guests should also take the reasonable care that you'd expect from people in similar situations.

In the event of an injury, any damages awarded to a guest are reduced by the percentage of responsibility the guest shares for the injury.

In any case, it seems reasonable to expect that only your hotel key will open your door (and only yours).

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