SAN FRANCISCO – investigative task force at our KGO kinship station considers what attorneys argue is a loophole in the law that allows hotels across California to avoid paying actual damage to guests.

Imagine that you booked a hotel, but the hotel accidentally gave all your belongings to the alleged offender without checking the identity card. It happened in San Francisco with Bob Sabuni.

According to the court ruling, Sabuni lost $ 8,390.88 of his belongings. He sued the San Francisco Marriott Marquis and won. With an unexpected step, the Marriott successfully appealed the case. But the judge of the Supreme State Court, which heard the case, thought it was done so unfairly.

Here’s how it happened.

Bob’s story

What was supposed to be a summer vacation in San Francisco after the blockade turned into a legal nightmare for Bob Sabuni.

In June 2021, Sabuni and his friends signed up for the San Francisco Marriott Marquis before heading to the Giants game. Sabuni said his room was not ready, so the hotel offered to hold his bags.

“Then we moved on to the game and we had a great time. The Giants won!” Said Sabuni.

Later that night Sabuni returned to great loss.

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“There were all the things except mine,” he said.

Sabuni said his luggage – which included a Briggs & Riley folding bag, a Tumi leather backpack, an iPad Pro, a MacBook Pro, a 4TB hard drive with a Social Security number and tax documents for seven years – was nowhere to be found. .

“The next morning I talked to the manager, who said they were studying it and found out that they had given my things to someone else,” Sabuni said.

According to the court ruling, hotel surveillance camera footage shows the man entering the Marriott later in the afternoon, claiming he checked the bag but lost the check.

“It’s remarkable that the Marriott let the guy go into the back room. He pointed to my bags and said he had … The guy said, ‘Can this be proven?’ Do you have tickets? Do you have an identity card? “? ‘ And the guy said, “I don’t have any of that,” but just mentioned that there’s a computer in that bag, “Sabuni said.

“Of course there was, and they just handed over my things,” he added.

Sabuni said that in the following weeks the hotel did not want to compensate him for the loss if he did not provide receipts for each item. Frustrated by the process, Sabuni later sued the Marriott in a small lawsuit and won.

“The judge awarded us $ 5,000, which was not nearly the $ 9,000 I lost, but I was satisfied,” Sabuni said.

This is not the end of the story, however.

Legal struggle

Marriott then appealed the case under Fr. Act passed in 1872 – also known as the hotel owner’s charter, which limits the hotel’s liability for guests’ belongings to $ 1,000. Marriott won the appeal, but unfairly, according to San Francisco High Court Judge Jeffrey Ross. He wrote:

“This is one of the few cases where the law does not allow the court to achieve a fair result.”

According to the court ruling, Ross stressed the fact that the law is outdated, partly saying that this statute “Has not been revised in line with the current cost of luggage, clothing and, above all, computer equipment and its data.”

“Prices have risen significantly since the law came into force,” said Jim Wilcox, a professor of economics at the College of Business at California College Berkeley.

Wilcox said prices for goods and services have increased by 20-25 since the law was introduced in 1872. However, in 2022, hotels in California are responsible for goods worth up to $ 1,000 – the maximum.

“Compared to when the law was first passed, $ 1,000 would then be the equivalent in terms of real purchasing power, [to] the ceiling is about $ 25,000, ”Wilcox said.

Ross wrote in the court decision: “One can expect Marriott to recognize aberration and pay the verdict in the interest of customer relations. Instead, Marriot filed an appeal. “

KGO approached the Marriott for an on-camera interview, but the hotel management declined to speak or comment.

Sabuni valued his stolen belongings at nearly $ 8,400. But, according to a Marriott court report, the hotel was legally liable for only $ 500 because of this charter.

“It needs to be upgraded over time. If a physical computer can cost x dollars, what’s there costs a lot more,” said Relani Belous, founder of Belous. “You have an industry that has a prison release card.”

The hotel’s owner’s charter has not been amended for 42 years, leaving consumers such as Sabuni paying the price.

“For me, it’s a matter of being responsible for customer safety and not giving them that shield,” Sabuni said.

Following the appeal, the court ordered Marriott to pay Sabuni $ 1,553 for a mistake made by her own staff. Sabuni, meanwhile, told KGO that given his losses, he spent more than $ 10,000 trying to fight the case.

The question now is: is it time to change the law?

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