Former CNN reporters Chuck de Caro & Lynne Russel Sue Motel 6 for Inadequate Security
Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, P.C. has worked to provide assistance to a variety of high-profile cases over the years. They have received hundreds of thousands in compensation for specific cases both big and small. Recently, a gunshot case shook many people in Albuquerque and changed the lives of two former CNN reporters, Chuck de Caro and Lynne Russel. Michael Maggiano is representing them in a complaint against Motel 6 for creating a dangerous environment and failing to implement sufficient security measures to protect guests despite overwhelming evidence of danger.
On June 30, 2015, Lynne Russell and Chuck de Caro’s lives would change forever. The former CNN anchor and reporter were driving through Albuquerque on their way to California when they decided to spend the night at a Motel 6. The motel advertised itself as being safe, clean, and pet-friendly. Though the Motel 6 was covered in security cameras and a guard, the area is high in criminal activity. There was a history of danger on the premises that Lynne and Chuck has no knowledge of.
Nobody was watching the cameras when Tomorio Walton, arrived at the motel property with intentions to succeed in a robbery that night. Mr. Walton was visibly carrying a weapon, which would have been seen on the monitors if somebody had been watching. Walton watched Lynne leave her motel room to retrieve something from the car and immediately chose her as his victim. He asked her for a cigarette and, when she declined, he went into the hallway next to the motel room to wait for Lynne to return from her car. While this was taking place, the security guard was on his cell phone instead of making rounds.
A few minutes later, Lynne returned to her room and, as she was opening the door, Walton appeared from behind the corner and pushed a gun to Lynne’s abdomen. He pushed her into the room, shoved her onto the bed, and closed the door. Security would have caught it all happening on the monitors.
When Chuck came out of the shower, the first thing he saw was his beloved wife with a gun pointed at her as she was sprawled out onto the bed. He noticed the gunman, who was surprised by his presence and pointed the gun back and forth between Chuck and Lynne. Chuck moved himself in front of the bedside table where the couple’s handguns rested and continued to exchange guns with his wife while Walton was distracted.
Meanwhile, the couple was attempting to talk down the gunman. He was stuck on the briefcase, in which he believed valuables were stored, and began opening fire in the bedroom. Chuck thought of one thing and one thing only – his need to protect his wife. He fired approximately seven shots in the gunfire exchange, while Walton kept shooting away. They were both shot.
After Walton ran out of the room and 9-1-1 was called, Lynne returned to the room immediately to find her husband in a lot of pain. He was sprawled out on the floor with wounds to the abdomen and leg. Chuck was bleeding profusely and Lynne worried about how much time her husband had left. However, the first responders to the incident were able to stabilize him and remove the bullets in the emergency room. The trauma left on the couple was unbelievable. Chuck had feared for his wife’s life and many ways, wondering if the encounter could have ended in rape or even death. Lynne was affected by wondering if she or her husband would have made it out alive from the entire incident.
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How Motel 6 Failed to Keep Two Guests Safe
Motel 6, like any premises allowing business onto their property, had a duty to uphold a standard duty of care. This standard duty is listed in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, 344, under the common law, “a possessor of land who holds it open to the public for entry for his or her business purposes is subject to liability to members of the public while they are upon the land for such a purpose, for physical harm caused by the accidental, negligent, or intentionally harmful acts of third persons.” It was in Motel 6’s standard duty of care to discover that harmful acts were taking place and give adequate warning to enable their paying visitors to avoid the harm and protect them. It could be said that Motel 6 was fully aware of the fact that a lot of criminal activity took place in that specific area and had a duty to protect guests by warning them of such activity. Instead, Motel 6 advertised itself as being a safe place for guests to stay.
Motel 6, furthermore, should have legally taken some extra safety measures based on the criminal activity in the area. This included restricted access for hotel guests only, monitored security cameras in all areas, staff members trained to respond to criminal attacks, trained security guards to cover the entire premises, and adequate systems of communication between the personnel monitoring the security camera and the patrolling security guards. The defendants were fully aware that the Motel 6 they operated was a target for extensive criminal activity. They should have taken further precautions to warn and protect guests.
Negligent and Reckless Security Resulting in Severe Injury
Motel 6 could have taken responsible security measures that would have prevented criminal activity from causing serious injury to Chuck and Lynne. Their negligence included such things as choosing not to have round-the-clock camera footage, refusing to provide sufficient security personnel even knowing about the crime rates, and failure to increase patrols of public areas to protect guests. They are also held liable for a failure to hire, train, supervise, and retain competent staff and security guards at the motel.
G4S Secure Solutions, a defendant, failed to properly assess a security risk of the area, and also advise a need for additional security. 24-hour real time monitoring of the premises could have benefited the couple and others greatly to avoid a risk of the criminal gaining access and threatening their lives. The defendants are held liable for damages including past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement, emotional distress, loss enjoyment of life, lost earnings, and much more.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
Lynne and Chuck suffered emotional traas a result of the incident. Severe emotional distress occurred as a result. The defendants will be held liable for resulting damages due to the fact that their acts and omissions directly caused Lynne and Chuck to suffer a deep emotional strain and pain from the near death experiences.
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Loss of Consortium
All defendants were also charged for loss of consortium due to the stress suffered after the incident took place in celebration of Chuck and Lynne’s one-year marriage anniversary. What was supposed to be a fun trip to relax turned into everything that is a nightmare. Lynne and Chuck have always and still rely on each other for support, love, encouragement, and companionship; however, after the events, it has become obvious that Chuck will not be able to provide the companionship to Lynne in the way he was able to do before the accident. His physical and emotional batteries will ail him in ways they may not understand in years to come, as well as the emotional anguish that Lynne has experienced as well. The defendant’s misconduct is found to be a direct and proximate cause of the injuries to Chuck and Lynne, which have diminished their ability to provide stability and companionship to each other.
Unfair Trade Practices Act Violations to Motel Operators and Employees
Motel 6 was aware of the fact that there were high rates of crime that threatened guest’s safety; however, it failed to alert to the public that their overnight accommodations were unsafe. Their misrepresentations under the New Mexico Unfair Trade Practices Act include the following:
- They represented that their services had characteristics that they did not obtain.
- They represented that its services were of a particular standard, quality, or grade even though they weren’t.
- They failed to provide the quality of services contracted for Lynne and Chuck.
- The acts that occurred were a direct and proximate cause of Lynne and Chuck’s injuries.
Prayer for Relief
The plaintiffs (Lynne and Chuck) request compensatory damages for past and future medical expenses, physical impairment and disfigurement, past and future lost earning capacity, lost enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, lost household services, loss of consortium, punitive damages, treble damages, attorney fees, and such other relief as allowed by law.
Request for Declaratory Judgment
Lastly, it was discovered that the Plaintiff’s counsel received a box of documents from G4S, the security company, in September 2015. The box of documents, from a minimal inspection, seemed to contain two three-ring binders of original hand filled-in daily security logs, files relating to the Motel 6 account, and a USB drive in an envelope labeled “Training.” The counsel doesn’t know the identity of the person who delivered the box containing the routine historical business records.
It is possible that these documents were delivered by a whistleblower employee of the company with concerns that they were going to be destroyed or hidden. The company’s ability to protect and preserve its own documents was, furthermore, called into question. The plaintiffs’ requested that the Court either direct Plaintiffs’ counsel to continue to hold the documents under seal until they become subject of discovery, or direct Plaintiffs’ counsel to provide copies to the Court to review in camera at the appropriate stage of discovery in the litigation.