United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Northern Division
TAMARA R. MURRILL, Plaintiff,
CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on defendant's motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
(DE 21). Plaintiff responded in opposition and defendant
replied. In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for
ruling. For the following reasons, defendant's motion is
OF THE CASE
who formerly worked at an EconoLodge hotel located in
Elizabeth City, North Carolina (the “EconoLodge”
or the “hotel”), commenced this action against
defendant, allegedly a franchisor of the EconoLodge,
asserting claims of negligence arising from an assault upon
plaintiff by a hotel guest. In amended complaint filed July
17, 2018, plaintiff asserts claims of negligence due to
failure to provide a safe and secure premises and work
environment, and failure to provide proper training.
Plaintiff seeks award of compensatory and punitive damages,
as well as costs upon jury trial.
filed the instant motion to dismiss on October 16, 2018,
seeking dismissal of all claims with prejudice.
OF THE FACTS
facts alleged in the complaint may be summarized as follows.
Plaintiff began working at the EconoLodge at the end of 2015,
when she was 17 years of age. Defendant, a Delaware
corporation with principal office in Maryland, was at all
times relevant herein a franchisor of the EconoLodge.
was employed to run the front desk and perform other menial
tasks at the hotel. At the time of her employment plaintiff
was a senior in high school, with limited work experience.
Plaintiff applied for the position by calling the hotel and
asking if they had any open positions. Plaintiff
“believed she was being employed by
‘EconoLodge,' a national hotel chain, which is
owned and controlled by” defendant. (Compl. ¶ 7).
employment, plaintiff received minimal training, including
training to use a software system for payment and
reservations, which was controlled, owned, and created by
defendant. Defendant also provides software for further
training to employees of the EconoLodge regarding day-to-day
employment activities. Plaintiff was tasked with working a 4
p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, and she primarily worked her shift
alone, without any other staff, including security officers,
present at the hotel property.
was informed during her training that upon complaint of any
guest or request for service that in the course of her duties
plaintiff was to attempt to fulfill said request. Her manager
directed her that this included going to a guest's room
unaccompanied. Defendant's training policies did not
prohibit this conduct.
received minimal training regarding entering guest rooms and
what if any precautions should be taken. She was not
specifically trained to decline to enter a room where the
door was open and a guest did not appear to be present. In
the past five years leading up to the assault on plaintiff,
there were at least 200 reported crimes, including 30
assaults (sexual or otherwise), 22 drug related incidents,
and at least 13 occurrences where employees of this
EconoLodge in Elizabeth City were themselves harassed or
assaulted while on the job.
the days leading up to the assault on plaintiff, fellow
employees had referenced odd behavior from a guest of the
hotel, Aeron Nicholas Etheridge (“Etheridge”).
This was documented in a log maintained by employees.
Etheridge had been staying at the hotel off and on since his
release from jail in November of 2015.
evening of the assault on plaintiff, January 11, 2016,
plaintiff was working the front desk with no other staff
present. Etheridge contacted plaintiff at the front desk on
two occasions that evening, the first regarding an issue with
the television and the second with a request for towels and
soap. As required by her training, plaintiff went to
Etheridge's room in each instance. The second time she
approached the room the door was open and Etheridge did not
upon inspection appear to be in the room.
entering Etheridge's room to deliver the items,
Etheridge, who had been hiding, assaulted plaintiff by
attacking her, tying her up, and raping her, over the course
of approximately one hour, until he released her. At no time
during the assault did an employee or other staff member know
the whereabouts of plaintiff as she was working alone without
any security presence. Plaintiff ...