Neil Block QC and Camilla Church successfully defend claim against The Cumberland Hotel in the Court of Appeal

Al Najar and others v The Cumberland Hotel (London) Limited [2020] EWCA Civ 1716

In a judgment handed down on 18th December 2020, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Dingemans J dismissing the Claimants' claim against The Cumberland Hotel for criminal injuries inflicted upon them while they were guests at the hotel.

In April 2014 the Claimants were staying in a large family group at the Cumberland Hotel in London.  In the early hours of 6th April a thief, Philip Spence, entered the Claimants' room while they slept.  The Claimants had left the bedroom door open on the latch.  One of the Claimants awoke and disturbed Spence in the act.  Spence then inflicted grievous injuries upon the first three Claimants.  He was tried and convicted of attempted murder.

After a 10 day trial of liability in May 2019 Dingemans J dismissed the claim, holding that while the hotel owed the Claimants a duty to take reasonable care to protect them against criminal acts of third parties, there had been no breach of duty.

The Claimants appealed to the Court of Appeal on grounds that the judge had incorrectly assessed the standard of care of the hotel's lobby officer.  They contended that the judge should have found that the lobby officer's duty was to greet every guest who entered the hotel 'where possible or reasonably practicable'.  This contention differed from the allegation made in the Particulars of Claim and argued at trial which was that the lobby officer had an absolute duty to greet every guest entering the hotel after 11 pm.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, finding that the more qualified duty now alleged by the Claimants had not been explored to any significant extent in the evidence and the judge was entitled to assess the question of breach of duty of the lobby officer by the nature of the case that was made against the Defendant and by the extent of the challenges put to the lobby officer in cross examination.  The more qualified duty was not the one that the judge was called upon to assess.  The judge's conclusion that there was not a breach of the duty that had been alleged could not be faulted.

Click here to read the judgment.