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Supreme Court of Virginia Rules a Guest of a Holiday Inn Express Who
 Was Shot and Carjacked in the Parking Lot Is Allowed to Sue
 Motel with Claims It Did Not Protect its Customers

By Mike Allen, The Roanoke Times, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Mar. 3, 2007 - The Supreme Court of Virginia has upheld a ruling last year that a man shot eight times in a Roanoke motel's parking lot should be allowed to sue the motel with claims it did not protect its customers.

In March 2003, Ryan Taboada was shot and carjacked in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express on Gainsboro Road Northwest shortly after he'd registered as a guest. He filed a $3 million lawsuit against Danville company Daly Seven, owner of the motel.

The lawsuit cited police reports saying that the motel's staff and guests had been the target of at least 12 robberies or attempted robberies in the three years before the shooting. The suit claimed that despite warnings from police that the property was in a dangerous location, Daly Seven failed to take adequate precautions to ensure the safety of the motel guests.

In 2005, Roanoke Circuit Judge Clifford Weckstein dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the motel could not be held liable for the actions of the shooter.

But in March 2006, the Supreme Court reversed Weckstein's decision, ruling that Taboada's case should be decided by a jury. The relationship between innkeeper and guest created obligation beyond what might be expected from other types of property owners, the court ruled.

The decision broke new ground on the question of what steps motel owners must take to protect guests from crimes committed on their property.

Daly Seven's attorney, Stan Barnhill of Roanoke, filed a petition challenging the ruling, but had sanctions imposed against him because of what Supreme Court justices called the "very strong intemperate language" in the petition that ridiculed the court. In August, Barnhill was suspended from practicing before the Supreme Court for a year.

The court allowed Daly Seven to petition again using a different attorney. Friday's opinion came in response to that petition.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Roanoke Times, Va.

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