ALEX L. BENNINGHOVEN and BRYAN T. SLOAN, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
HAWKEYE HOTELS, INC., DM RIVER LODGING, INC., and HAWKEYE HOTELS HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT, INC., Defendants-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Douglas F.
plaintiffs appeal the district court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of the defendants. AFFIRMED.
J. Wiedenfeld of Elverson Vasey, L.L.P., Des Moines, for
T. S. Greer of Cartwright, Druker & Ryden, Marshalltown,
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.
DANILSON, Chief Judge.
plaintiffs, Alex Benninghoven and Bryan Sloan, appeal the
district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of
the defendants, Hawkeye Hotels, Inc., DM River Lodging, Inc.,
and Hawkeye Hotels Hospitality Management, Inc. The
plaintiffs argue the defendants breached their duty of
reasonable care owed to hotel guests in hiring Michael Morrow
without discovering Morrow's criminal history. The
plaintiffs were hotel guests and were assaulted by Morrow
after Morrow's shift was over and they were all off
premises. Because we agree the hotel's liability does not
extend to criminal conduct of an employee who was off duty
and off premises under these facts, we affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
facts are not in dispute. The defendants are the owners and
managers of the Residence Inn Hotel located in downtown Des
Moines near the Court Avenue entertainment district. Morrow
was employed as a desk clerk at the Residence Inn Hotel,
checking guests in and out.
April 4, 2014, Morrow applied and was hired to work for
defendants. Morrow filled out an employment application with
the defendants on that date in which he denied any criminal
convictions (excluding traffic accidents). However, between
July 27, 2010, and April 4, 2014, Morrow had numerous
criminal convictions, including various misdemeanor offenses
including theft, operating while intoxicated, unauthorized
use of a credit card, criminal trespass, and criminal
mischief. He also had two misdemeanor assault convictions-one
for domestic assault and one for assault causing bodily
defendants' general manager, Daryl Rixman, acknowledges a
background check was conducted, including a check of Iowa
Courts Online. However, Morrow's convictions for assault
were not discovered.
24, 2014, Alex L. Benninghoven and Bryan T. Sloan (the
plaintiffs) visited Des Moines to celebrate Sloan's
bachelor party. They checked into the Residence Inn at about
2:30 p.m. Morrow greeted them, checked them in, and escorted
them to their rooms. At their request, Morrow gave the
plaintiffs recommendations regarding nearby bars. The
plaintiffs attended a baseball game later in the evening,
then returned to the hotel where they again spoke to Morrow
about which bars they planned on patronizing.
around 2:30 a.m. on May 25, 2014, the plaintiffs were walking
back to the hotel from the entertainment district. As they
passed by an alley, about a block away from the hotel, Morrow
called out to them from the alley where he was standing with
a group of people. The plaintiffs recognized Morrow and
walked over to join him. The plaintiffs aver they would not
have approached the group had they not recognized Morrow from
vehicle occupied by some women drove up. After a disagreement
about Sloan talking with the women in the vehicle, Morrow and
Sloan began to scuffle and the encounter escalated into a
violent assault of the plaintiffs by Morrow and the group.
Sloan was knocked unconscious and his wallet and phone were
stolen. Benninghoven was also knocked unconscious.
plaintiffs filed a petition against the defendants, stating
claims of general negligence and a claim of negligent hiring
and retention. The specifications of negligence under the
general negligence claim include: failing to perform an
adequate criminal background check when hiring its employee
Morrow; hiring Morrow when he had a criminal background
including a history of violent crime; placing Morrow in a
position in the hotel that represents to guests that he is a
person whom guests can trust; retaining Morrow in this
position despite Morrow's criminal and violent
background; and failing to properly train Morrow concerning
interactions with guests including while off duty. Under the
negligent-hiring claim, the plaintiffs assert the defendants
were negligent in hiring and retaining Morrow when they knew,
or in exercise of ordinary care should have known, of his
dangerous characteristics as demonstrated by his criminal
defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting
they owed no duty to the plaintiffs for intentional torts
committed by an employee who is off duty and off property.
They also asserted the intentional torts committed by the
employee off duty and off property were not foreseeable as a
matter of law.
defendants' employee policies, signed by Morrow, include
The following are examples of conduct not tolerated by this
corporation and will be considered just cause for punishments
of written reprimand and/or including immediate dismissal.
1. Falsification or alteration of company records or
. . . .
4. Threatening, intimidating, or coercing guests or