It is highly likely that you will inevitably face a legal issue and engage a Hospitality Expert Witness to bolster your defense, no matter if you are the owner, operator, or participant at nearly any economic or legal level of a hospitality industry entity. The two most commonly-defended liability issues are “standard of care” and “custom and trade practice,” respectively. Ironically, for neither issue can you reference a major-association or industry-standard body of regulation. This wrinkle may hinder the plaintiff almost as equally as the defendant, but it also means that plaintiffs will always see an opportunity for civil litigation. It behooves you, as a defendant, to present your customs of management clearly as equivalent to prevailing industry standards. One of the easiest ways to crystallize these disparate issues is to engage a Hospitality Expert Witness on your behalf. Primarily, the expert can assist you in illustrating the evolution of how practices become standards. One good example of this expertise is the now-ubiquitous existence of non-skid strips and mats in hotel showers. These safety features appeared alongside the proliferation of franchisee hotels and chains, as the hotel industry evolved from independent, owner-operated establishments throughout the twentieth century. From a special-order request or an add-on accessory the operator would have to self-install, safer bathtubs and showers stalls became standardized. Non-skid surfaces became essential features of hotel bathrooms as the industry expanded the demographic range of the customers they served – particularly as travelers aged. Knowledge of both the existence and importance of a non-skid surface spread not just anecdotally between franchisors, but increasingly, institutionally. You can see another example of practices becoming standards in the proliferation of electronic key-card readers to lock and unlock hotel room doors, an upgrade from traditional keyed locks. Of course, this approach hasn’t completely mitigated the prevalence of intrusion and theft. Incidents persist, and the hospitality industry is insulated from being specifically ostracized only because property crime statistics are not broken out between private residence and hotel. From a liability standpoint, however, electronic key cards have allowed security to take a large leap from keys, which were easily duplicated not just by nefarious strangers but at times by corrupted staff themselves. The ability to track not just when a room is accessed, but immediate identification of the instrument used has allowed hotel management to escape particularly injurious litigation, in addition to adverse publicity. Minimizing liability in this respect has proven most useful as the industry expanded geographically – urban areas and the highly-transient areas in the vicinity of airports and other transportation hubs, for example. Again, knowledge of this convenience, security and safety feature may have begun case by case, but spread institutionally until it became a standard, at least among the franchised and newly constructed hotels. Accurate and proper description of practices and standards can hinge on highly technical details, for which the presence of a more technically trained expert on your side can be invaluable. Non-skid bathroom shower mats may require a measurement of their precise friction coefficient to prove their effectiveness. Understanding the precise mechanics of keyless card locks, and being able to demonstrate exactly how difficult it may be to defeat them is another instance. Consider an example where management, safety and security converge synonymously – a bar patron accused of assault on the hotel premises is, in fact, an off-duty hotel employee. What’s at the root of the problem for you as a hotel owner or operator – was it the consumption of alcohol, or the presence of staff at the bar at off-hours? Are your employees held, at all times, to a higher standard of care and behavior than other customers? A Hospitality Expert can parse the finer details, bringing your company to a smoother, beneficial conclusion. In the end, proving a standard of care or custom and trade practice can seem an elusive target. Among the diversity of operations in various market locations, a Hospitality Expert Witness is your absolutely essential ally in lawsuits to turn obscurity into clarity.