SE Texas Record

Monday, July 8, 2019

Trip & fall against DoubleTree Hilton axed, man argued fountain should have been barricaded

By David Yates | Jul 8, 2019

HOUSTON – DoubleTree Hotels wasn’t negligent for declining to install a barricade around a fountain to keep guests from tripping and falling in, a Texas appellate court recently found.

In 2015, Richard Culotta, along with his wife, filed a premise-liability lawsuit against Doubletree and its parent company, Hilton Inns. 

Court records show Culotta and a co-worker had taken a business trip to Houston and stayed at a DoubleTree hotel near the airport. They decided to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant and were being led to their table when Culotta tripped on the edge of a double-fountain water feature and fell into one of the fountains.

Culotta alleged that the fountain feature was unreasonably dangerous because the edging had a low profile and that there were no barriers to prevent a person who had tripped from falling in.

Court records show that Culotta had testified there was nothing obstructing his view of the fountains as he walked toward them.

In response to the lawsuit, the hotel companies moved for no-evidence summary judgment, which the trial court granted, prompting Culotta to appeal.

On June 25, the First Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

“Because the fountains were open and obvious conditions on the premises, DoubleTree had no duty, as a matter of law, to Culotta to warn against them,” the opinion states. “We conclude the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment to DoubleTree on Culotta’s premises-liability claim because DoubleTree had no duty as a matter of law.”

Houston attorney Reginald McKamie Sr. represents Culotta.

DoubleTree is represented by Michael Tanner and Amie Fordan, attorneys for the Dallas law firm Touchstone, Bernays, Johnston, Beall, Smith & Stollenwreck.

Appeals case No. 01-18-00267-CV

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Doubletree Hilton