Is the hotel liable to pay damages to the guest who lost his car from the hotel’s complementary valet services? This is being decided by a bench of Supreme Court Justices N V Ramana and M M Shantanagouda in respect to a case filed by Sapan Dhawan.
Dhawan was a guest at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi in 1988 where he went to dine. He handed over the keys of his Maruti Zen to complementary valet services and was issued a parking slip. However, when Dhawan returned from his dinner and asked for the key, he was told that his car was stolen.
Though the car was insured and the claim settled by insurer New India Assurance, the question remains whether the hotel should be held liable for such a loss. A case was filed by Dhawan and the insurer at the Delhi State Consumer Commission. The hotel has now challenged the decision before the Delhi and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum which had directed the hotel to pay compensation to the Insurance Company to the tune of Rs 2,80,000 along with 12% interest from January 28, 1999, along with Rs 50,000 as litigation charges. The commission also directed Taj Hotels to pay Rs 1 lakh to Dhawan as compensation.
The hotel opined that the case be dismissed as Dhawan could not be termed as a consumer since he was not charged any money for the valet service. The hotel also stated that there was a clear disclaimer that the vehicle was accepted and parked ‘at the owner’s risk’ and it was just a service offered by the hotel.
On examining the bill issued to Dhawan, the Commission noted that not only was Dhawan charged for the food but the bill also included cost of valet parking services. The case is being decided by the Supreme Court as merely stating that parking was ‘at owner’s risk’ does not absolve them of any liability.
The order of February 5, 2018 delivered by the National Commission upheld the order but lowered the interest rate to 9% on compensation awarded and to 12% for period of delay.