A Hotel with Swimming Pool Owes Its Patrons A Duty of Care, Says Supreme Court
The court awarded a compensation of Rs 62.5 lakh to the family of a man who had drowned in a hotel in Kerala in March 2006, observing that the management cannot shirk the responsibility of assuring the safety of its patrons.
A file photo of the Supreme Court. (PTI)
New Delhi: A hotel providing a swimming pool for its guests owes a duty of care as well, held the Supreme Court as it awarded a compensation of Rs 62.5 lakh to the family of a man who died after drowning in a swimming pool in a Kerala hotel.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud also provided an additional interest of 9% on the compensation from the institution of the complaint more than a decade ago.
Satyendra Pratap Singh, 35, had suddenly drowned in the swimming pool at Hotel Samudra in Kovalam in March 2006. It was a foreigner who had raised an alarm after witnessing that Singh was drowning. The hotel’s lifeguard at that point had been deployed as a bartender.
The National Consumer Commission had held that there was a deficiency of service on the part of the management of the hotel, primarily for the reason that the lifeguard on duty had been assigned the task of a bartender. The hotel was managed by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Ltd, which had appealed to the Supreme Court against the Commission’s order.
Affirming the Commission’s views, the top court was categorical that a hotel cannot shirk its responsibility of maintaining the swimming pool and assuring the safety of its patrons.
“Since the facility of a swimming pool was available for use by the guests of the hotel, there was a close and proximate relationship between the management involving the maintenance of safe conditions in the pool and guests of the hotel using the pool,” it said.
The bench emphasised, “A hotel which provides a swimming pool for its guests owes a duty of care. The duty of care arises from the fact that unless the pool is properly maintained and supervised by trained personnel, it is likely to become a potential source of hazard and danger.”
Every guest who enters the pool may not have the same level of proficiency as a swimmer, said the court, adding that the hotel management can reasonably foresee the consequence that may arise if the pool and its facilities are not properly maintained.
“The observance of safety requires good physical facilities but in addition, human supervision over those who use the pool. Allowing or designating a life guard to perform the duties of a bartender is a clear deviation from the duty of care,” observed the bench.
The court held the hotel guilty of deficiency in services by noting: “Mixing drinks does not augur well in preserving the safety of swimmers. The appellant could have reasonably foreseen that there could be potential harm caused by the absence of a dedicated lifeguard.”
On a question as to how an able-bodied man could die by drowning, the bench underscored there was no evidence of the presence of alcohol in the deceased’s body.
“The death was due to drowning. Considering the delay in the response by the lifeguard who was preoccupied with bartending duties, the drowning of the deceased was a direct consequence of negligence,” held the bench.
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