California State Jury Award $3.5 Million To Hotel Guest That Was Sexually Assaulted After Front Desk Clerk Gave Key To Perpetrator

MRSS Hospitality, Inc., d/b/a Holiday Inn Express operated the Holiday Inn Express in Fraizer Park, CA. On April 22, 2014, plaintiff came to visit her boyfriend Gerrit Pietersma, who worked at the hotel with Jonathan Michael Padilla. Pietersma and Padilla were staying in separate employer-reserved rooms. Padilla consumed 22 beers and some cocaine. After his co-workers went to their rooms at about 11:00 PM, Padilla approached Lori Scharon, the only employee on duty at the front desk, and asked her for sex in exchange for $100. Scharon denied his request and threatened to call police. Padilla went to plaintiff's room and peeked into the room after unscrewing the peep hole. Padilla then went back to the front desk and told Scharon that he was Pietersma and that he needed a replacement key because he left his key card in his room. Scharon gave Padilla the key to plaintiff's hotel room without obtaining any ID from Padilla. Padilla used the key card to enter plaintiff's room where he sexually assaulted plaintiff. Padilla was arrested by Kern County Sheriffs who responded to the scene shortly thereafter.

Plaintiff filed a complaint against MRSS Hospitality, Scharon, InterContinental Hotels Group Resources Inc., Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc., Holiday Hospitality Franchising, LLC, and others in the Kern County Superior Court, asserting claims of negligence; negligent hiring, retention, and supervision; sexual battery; assault; battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; respondeat superior; and premises liability.

On April 12, 2017, Judge Sydney Chapin issued judgment in favor of InterContinental Hotels Group Resources Inc., Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc., and Holiday Hospitality Franchising, LLC, finding that they could not be held liable for the negligence of MRSS Hospitality and Scharon. On April 27, 2017, the jury returned a verdict awarding plaintiff $3,500,000, including $2,100,000 of which the jury found MRSS and Scharon liable.

Plaintiff was represented by Brian J. McCormack and Sarah C. Serpa of Callahan & Blaine, APLC.

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