Earlier, there was a lack of clarity on who is responsible when something happens to a car during valet parking. It is a scenario if you hand your car to the hotel valet. However, it seems now some kind of guidance is available if someone steals a car from a valet parking.
The Supreme Court has a ruling if you give your car for valet parking, and it goes missing from there. According to the ruling, the concerned hotel is liable for such thefts. The hotel has to pay for damages to the missing car. It cannot ask for an exemption for the same.
You might have used a hotel�s valet parking service in the past. However, you now realize that a hotel cannot deny its accountability if your car goes missing. This is applicable even though you find a disclaimer statement in the tag they give you. Often, the disclaimer states the hotel management is not liable for the loss or damage to a car.
A vehicle owner sued in 1998 against the renowned Taj Mahal Hotel. The Supreme Court of India recently heard about the lawsuit. The revolutionary decision of the court will certainly influence valet rules in India.
A person went to Taj Mahal Hotel on August 1, 1998, in a Maruti Zen vehicle at about 11 pm. The man gave his car key to the hotel�s valet parking after he reached there and went inside. When the man came out at 1 am, the hotel told him that some people stole his vehicle.
The hotel authorities said that three young folks had come to the hotel on the same night. They arrived in an unfamiliar vehicle, parked the car, and went inside. The men came out after some time and told the valet to get their vehicle from the parking space. After the valet left, one of them took the Maruti Zen�s keys and stole the car. The three guys drove away, although the security personnel tried to stop the vehicle.
The owner sued the renowned hotel
The owner of the car went to the police station to file a complaint on hearing this. However, the vehicle was untraceable. While the insurer of the vehicle paid the insurance claim, the hotel did not pay the car�s value. They also refused to compensate for the deficiency of their services. The authorities claimed the parking coupon had a clause that stated the owner parked the vehicle at their risk.
Thereafter, the car owner and the insurer sued the hotel and sought compensation for the car�s value. The State Commission directed the hotel to pay the value of the vehicle (INR 2,80,000) along with 12% interest pa. They also asked the hotel to pay the litigation expenses of 50,000 INR to the car�s insurer. The commission told the hotel to pay the compensation of 1,00,000 INR to the car owner.
However, the hotel approached the National Commission against the direction that dismissed its appeal. The hotel then appealed to the country�s Supreme Court. The highest court of the country dismissed the hotel�s petition as well.
The ruling of the court
The court mentioned after hearing the case that the hotel cannot back out of its liability for such negligence. If the guest hands over the car to the staff, there is an obligation for an implied contract. The obligation involves returning the car safely when the owner directs it to do so.
The highest court stated that the hotel did not explain why it failed to return the car to its owner. After all, the vehicle did not go missing because of the latter�s negligence or fault. Star properties that provide valet parking facilities cannot shirk responsibility in case the vehicle of a guest goes missing. The obligation persists although the vehicle parking slip has a non-liability clause, according to the top court.
The court defined the liability of the hotel
The Supreme Court also observed that the hotel has the liability as a bailee. They should return the car in the same condition in which they received it. The court added that a hotel is not accountable if the vehicle gets damaged because of an uncontrollable event. For instance, if there is a natural disaster, the hotel does not have responsibility for a vehicle�s damage.
The valets have to take reasonable care of the valets, including well-maintained and safe parking zones. They should also ensure that outsiders cannot access the vehicle easily and steal it. The hotel should also maintain its CCTV cameras properly. They should give the vehicles to only that person who has the vehicle parking slip.
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