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Connecticut State Court Dismisses Claims Against Hotel Franchisor for Personal Injury at Franchisee’s Hotel

A state court in Connecticut recently granted summary judgment to Days Inns Worldwide, Inc. in a slip and fall case. Lacertosa v. Days Inns Worldwide, Inc., 2022 WL 1051147 (Sup. Ct. Conn. Mar. 30, 2022). Lacertosa, a guest at a franchised hotel, was injured when he tripped on a tile by the pool and fell. He alleged that Days Inns oversaw the premises through its agents, the franchisee and its employees. Days Inns moved for summary judgment, arguing that a franchisor has no legal duty to a franchisee’s guest and cannot be held liable for defects in the franchisee’s property. Lacertosa argued that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the franchisee was Days Inns’ agent or apparent agent and whether Days Inns was negligent in its premises inspection.

The court granted the motion on all counts. It held that the franchisee was not an agent, but an independent contractor of Days Inns, according to the language of the franchise agreement. The court also held that that certain provisions in the franchise agreement that could implicate a franchisor’s responsibilities were standard reservations of rights common in franchising and necessary to safeguard the franchisor’s brand and trademarks. Those provisions include language involving consultation, maintenance of standards, the use of an operations manual, and the right to inspect the franchisee’s premises. Days Inns also provided sufficient evidence to show that it did not manage the franchisee’s premises, control its day-to-day operations, or hire, supervise, or discharge employees. The court also held that Lacertosa had not adequately alleged facts to support claims of apparent agency or vicarious liability.

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The Franchise Memorandum is a collection of postings on summaries of recent legal developments of interest to franchisors brought to you by Lathrop GPM LLP. 

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