A negligence claim against the Marriott Marquis by a New Year's Eve reveler who was injured in an automobile accident after being evicted from the Times Square hotel has been dismissed by a federal judge in Albany.
The action came more than a year after the judge, Lawrence E. Kahn of the Northern District of New York, declined to dismiss the lawsuit of Jeffrey Dagen, saying that innkeepers have a duty to provide safe harbor for their guests.
Following discovery in the case, Kahn concluded last week in Dagen v. Marriott International, 05-cv-1593, that the hotel's actions were not the proximate cause of Dagen's injuries and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the negligence claim.
Dagen paid $4,000 for two rooms at the hotel for the nights of Dec. 31, 2004, and Jan. 1, 2005, to celebrate the new year with four guests. But, after an incident in which one of Dagen's guests was found lying face down in a hallway, hotel officials summoned police to escort out Dagen and his guests.
Dagen retrieved his pickup truck and headed for his home in the Albany area. Three hours later, after driving about 90 miles north on the Taconic Parkway without stopping to rest or seek lodging, Dagen decided to exit for gas. As he did so, his truck skidded off the exit ramp and hit a tree.
He sued the hotel for $750,000, claiming it was responsible for his injuries, which included a shattered leg and damage to his chest.
In his complaint, Dagen alleged that he had told hotel officials that he had nowhere to go, was too tired to drive home and had been drinking.
But Judge Kahn noted that a state trooper who responded to the accident had found that Dagen exited the Taconic at an unsafe speed given the wet road conditions.
The trooper also reported that Dagen had admitted that immediately before exiting the parkway he had been driving at 65 miles per hour, 10 miles higher than the speed limit.
Under those circumstances, Kahn wrote, the hotel's "eviction of the Plaintiff cannot be considered to be the proximate cause of the Plaintiff's tires losing grip with the road and skidding off the exit ramp three hours later."
In his December 2006 opinion allowing the case to proceed, Kahn observed that the "defendants knew that plaintiff had consumed a large amount of alcohol, which they had served, and the plaintiff was, if not drunk, certainly not in tip top shape."
Furthermore, he stated in the earlier ruling, "only the most incredulous would believe, that Defendants, as hoteliers, did not know that Plaintiff was unlikely to locate alternate lodging in New York City on New Year's Eve."
In his latest opinion, the judge noted that "it might have been unwise for Marriott to kick a guest out into the streets just before midnight on New Year's Eve," and that the hotel might have been liable, due to the duty-of-care standard applied to innkeepers, under different circumstances.
Here, however, he said the hotel's action merely "furnished the condition or occasion for the occurrence of the accident," which was caused by a slick spot on the roadway that Dagen approached at an unsafe speed.
Dagen also sued the hotel for breach of contract. Last week's ruling applied only to the negligence claim. The status of the other claim could not be learned Friday.
The Marriott Marquis was represented by Theresa B. Marangas of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker in Albany.
Dagen was represented by Richard P. Feirstein of Albany.