A New Jersey woman allegedly beaten up by a prostitute in a case of mistaken identity is suing an upscale Miami Beach hotel for failing to keep sex trade off its premises.
Anna Burgese of Medford sued Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which manages the W South Beach Hotel, and its owner, 2201 Collins Fee, on May 28 in Camden.
Burgese contends in a federal court suit that police told her the assailant was probably a prostitute who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and assumed Burgese to be another prostitute competing for business.
Her suit alleges that the hotel has "a prostitute-friendly environment where prostitutes are permitted to market themselves on the premises."
Burgese, 34, says she was walking through the lobby with her husband, Joseph, on Jan. 19 when a woman grabbed her from behind, threw her head-first into a stone wall, tackled her to the ground and hit her.
Burgese’s husband used his crutches to fight off the attacker, the suit says.
Several other women nearby appeared to be keeping watch and cheering on the assailant, says Burgese’s lawyer, Lance Rogers of Rogers & Associates in Bryn Mawr, Pa.
Burgese’s husband asked the hotel staff to detain the attacker and was assured that had been done but the hotel placed the women in a taxi without asking for their names, the suit says.
Burgese, who is 5-foot-1 and weighs 105 pounts, had two teeth knocked loose, and suffered facial cuts and bruises, a scraped knee and a bloody lip.
The suit asserts that prostitutes have become violent with guests on other occasions. It also says managers have been uncooperative with Burgese’s attempts to learn the identity of the assailant and have refused to turn over security camera footage that might show the incident.
Joseph Burgese says the staff initially said they knew the attacker’s identity but later claimed otherwise.
The suit says the defendants failed to provide sufficient security, detain the assailant, take increased precautions after prior incidents, properly supervise and train employees, and properly monitor the property.
The suit also includes counts for premises liability, loss of consortium on behalf of Joseph Burgese, and civil liability for criminal acts under Florida law.
It also includes a count for assault against the Jane Doe assailants. Damages exceed $150,000, according to the suit.
The hotel’s room rates run from $449 to more than $5,000 a night. The suit says guests who left online reviews on various travel websites made reference to prostitutes working there.
A reporter found one such review, on TripAdvisor.com, where a user identified as SamPat1 of Chicago said, "We had prostitutes that propositioned us at the hotel bar in the evening."
Trey Sarten, the W Hotel’s director of global public relations, said in a statement: "We truly regret that this incident occurred and that one of our guests was injured. The safety and security of our guests is our paramount priority and we are taking this situation very seriously.
"Some of the information being reported, especially the claims that there were multiple persons assaulting our guest, is incorrect. Due to pending litigation, we are unable to comment further at this time," she added.