|By Monica Potts, The Stamford Advocate,
Conn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
August 13, 2009 - STAMFORD -- A downtown hotel being sued by a woman raped at gunpoint in its parking garage is claiming she was careless, negligent and "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities," according to court documents.
The victim's attorneys also argue the hotel has inadvertently identified her to acquaintances by asking them to testify.
The Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa, along with the firms in charge of managing the hotel and its parking garage, made the claim as part of a list of special defenses filed in state Superior Court in Stamford last month. Such defenses allow defendants in civil suits to argue they are not responsible for damages even if the plaintiff's story is true.
The special defenses, and the plaintiff's argument against them, are a few of the documents filed in a series of arguments and counterarguments as the case heads for trial, scheduled for April.
The woman filed the lawsuit in May 2008, six months after Danbury native Gary Fricker, 56, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a plea deal in the case.
On Oct. 10, 2006, Fricker stuck a handgun in the back of the then 40-year-old woman and forced her and her children, then 3 and 5, into their minivan as they left the hotel, according to court documents.
She let him go through her wallet and told him he could take it, but Fricker demanded she take off her clothes. Fricker sexually
assaulted the woman for several minutes, pointing the gun at her and her children and threatening to sexually assault one of her children.
When another car pulled up, the woman screamed, and Fricker fled. Police arrested Fricker near White Plains, N.Y., three days later, and he immediately confessed, police have said.
Fricker, a transient carpenter, had been arrested 20 times before and was wanted in Florida on an arson case, police have said.
The woman, identified in court papers only as Jane Doe, claims in the suit that Fricker had been in the hotel and garage acting suspiciously days before the attack, as well as the afternoon of the attack, and the hotel failed to notice him, apprehend him or make him leave. During the attack, security personnel did not see or stop him, the suit claims.
The hotel also claims as a special defense that the acts were unforeseen and beyond their control, that the woman and her children failed to properly "mitigate their damages," and that the hotel had not been notified about Fricker.
The hotel also subpoenaed several people involved with the family, including a Pilates instructor, friends, tennis partners and the children's baby sitter. The woman's attorneys argue the individuals subpoenaed do not know anything about the attack, that the subpoenas inadvertently identified her to those people and that it was merely an effort by the hotel's attorneys to intimidate her.
A general manager reached at the hotel declined to comment. An attorney for the hotel, Stephen Brown, did not return a call seeking comment. The woman's attorney, Ernest Teitell, also declined to comment.
-- Staff Writer Monica Potts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 964-2266.
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