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Liability in Hotel Fires: Lessons From the MGM Grand and Hilton Fires

Liability in hotel fires will depend on the cause of the fire and the parties who contributed to the danger. A pair of deadly fires at the MGM Grand and the Hilton in Las Vegas in the early 1980s resulted in numerous changes that have made hotels in the city among the safest in the nation. With 85 deaths and more than 600 injuries, the MGM Grand fire was disastrous. It was followed by the fire at the Hilton that killed eight hotel guests. In response, state legislators implemented rules and regulations that have made Nevada hotels much safer. When someone is injured in a hotel fire that is caused by the negligence of others, a personal injury lawyer can assist in ensuring that the hotel is held liable for damages in cases of negligence.

The Fires and the Subsequent Legal Changes

The MGM Grand fire happened when a ground fault in the hotel’s deli shorted, starting a fire that quickly spread throughout the casino area. The hotel had requested an exception to the installation of sprinklers. Most victims died from smoke that rose from the fire and filled stairwells, where many were trapped behind self-locking doors. The Hilton fire happened three months later, when a busboy started a fire on the 22nd floor that killed eight people and injured 200 more.

Legislators reacted by instituting new fire codes and safety regulations for all structures in the state. All were required to install sprinkler systems, and no grandfathering or exceptions were allowed. Multiple fires in hotels have happened since that time, but no one has been killed. There have been some injuries in some of the subsequent fires, however.

Potential Liability in Hotel Fires

Hotel owners owe duties of care to keep the premises in reasonably safe conditions. For proper hotel fire safety, they must post exit plans to be used in case fires in hotels occur and provide information about what to do in binders that are located in hotel rooms. The exit ways must be clearly marked, and the sprinkler systems should be in good working order. If a fire is started by the negligent or wrongful actions of another guest, injured victims may sue that guest. If an employee starts a fire because of negligence, the employee and the hotel may both be liable under a theory of vicarious liability. A personal injury lawyer may identify the potentially liable parties and seek to recover compensation for clients.

The George Bochanis Injury Law Offices was established in 1985. Before opening his office, Mr. Bochanis spent years representing major insurance companies in litigation cases and prior to that was a law clerk to a prominent local district court judge. Our offices have grown from a small one person setting to having its own well known office location on South Ninth Street in Downtown Las Vegas with 15 employees.

Years of Experience: More than 28 years
Nevada Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Nevada State Bar Federal Court of Nevada, 3rd Circuit

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Since opening our doors in 1985, the accident lawyers at the George Bochanis Injury Law Offices have been committed to helping injury victims get full compensation after slip and fall accidents, motor vehicle crashes, workplace injuries, and other personal injuries.

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