|By William B. Depasupil, The Manila
Times, PhilippinesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 28, 2009 --The Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered one of the Philippines' most luxurious hotels to pay more than $1 million in damages over the murder of a Norwegian guest a decade ago. The appellate court's Special Eight Division, in a decision written by Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, stressed to the management of Makati Shangri-La Hotel that it is the responsibility of five-star hotels to provide equivalent security measures for the safety of their guests.
The hotel was ordered to pay P52 million ($1.1 million) in damages to the heirs of Christian Harper, an executive of a European power company who was found dead after being bound, gagged and then robbed in his hotel room on November 6, 1999. He was at the age of 30 at that time.
"Makati Shangri-La hotel is a five star hotel. The reasonable care that it must exercise for the safety and comfort of its guests should be commensurate with the grade and quality of the accommodation it offers.
If there is such a thing as 'five-star hotel security,' the guests at Makati Shangri-La surely deserve just that," the appellate court ruled.
It affirmed an earlier ruling by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City that Makati Shangri-La failed to provide its guests adequate security that led to the death of the Harper.
Makati Shangri-La assailed the regional trial court decision and argued there was nobody else to blame but Harper himself because he invited the two unidentified suspects in his room at the 14th floor of the hotel.
The hotel management pointed out that they don't prohibit guests from inviting visitors in their hotel rooms out of respect for their privacy and as a matter of policy.
But the appellate court junked the hotel's argument, noting that prior to Harper's death, the hotel security officer had already recommended additional security measures to include a roving guard for each floor after several of the hotel guests reports losing valuables in their rooms.
The said recommendation, it pointed out, was ignored by hotel management and was only implemented after the Harper incident.
The appellate court agreed with the regional trial court's observation that the incidents prior to Harper's death should have alerted the hotel on its security lapses.
The appellate court noted that the security lapse was further shown when the male suspect who entered the victim's room was never checked by any of the guards when he entered the hotel premises.
Finding it liable for negligence, the appellate court also ordered Makati Shangri-La to pay the cost of the suit and P250,000 in attorney's fees.
Associate Justices Fernanda Lampas-Peralta and Celia Librea-Leagogo concurred with the decision. With report from AFP
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