Articles Posted in Ask the Hotel Lawyer™

Published on:

27 April 2016

In Memoriam: William G. Sipple

All of us in the hospitality industry will miss the warm smile, good humor and practical insights of our colleague, Bill Sipple, who left us too soon. I am proud to have counted Bill as a good and long-time friend.

A seasoned hospitality executive, he was the consummate professional and all who worked with him in any capacity recognized the value of his leadership. It was always great working with Bill on any transaction, whichever side of the transaction he was on, but I always liked being on his side the best. His talents, focus, and energy made him one of the lights of our industry. He calmed rough waters, got deals done, and was just plain fun to spend time with.

Thanks for all you gave to our industry, Bill. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

The Sipple family suggests donations to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research in lieu of flowers.

Sipple 2

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Published on:

22 June 2015

US Supreme Court voids Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel operators to turn over guest records on demand

In a 5-4 opinion rendered on June 22, 2015, the United States Supreme Court held that a Los Angeles municipal code provision violates the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizures. The invalidated LA Code provision requires hotel operators to make guest records available to the police upon request. This case may be significant because many cities throughout the country have similar laws, and they are now all constitutionally suspect. On the other hand, for reasons discussed below, most hotel operators will probably not care to challenge a records request, and there are expedient alternatives available to cities and police, including administrative subpoenas. See below to access the full Supreme Court opinion in City of Los Angeles v. Patel.

Read on to learn more about the Los Angeles City code’s  provisions, the history of the challenge in the District Court, appeals to the Ninth Circuit, and the US Supreme Court’s decision. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

5 January 2013

Hotel Lawyer on how new privacy law enforcement may affect your mobile apps used in marketing. Hotel lawyer Robert Braun has an alert that may save you an unnecessary class action or troublesome lawsuit (or enforcement action). Although, the California Attorney General has started the furor, the impact of this approach will affect any company who deals with even one consumer in the state of California, and thus is likely to affect most of the hospitality industry in the United States, and many companies outside the US.

Here is what it is all about.

Privacy on the Move
California Imposes New Requirements
on Mobile Apps

by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

Hotel companies are actively entering the mobile application space as a means of gaining market share and solidifying guest relations. In addition to online travel agents like HotelsbyMe.com, a number of brands including Omni, Choice and Starwood have developed mobile applications. However, as mobile applications gain popularity, hotel companies should consider how privacy and security laws will impact how they can use those applications.

For companies with operations in California, that issue was highlighted on December 6, 2012, when the California Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Delta Airlines for failing to include a privacy policy with a smartphone application. The lawsuit, the first of its kind, alleges that Delta violated California law requiring online services to “conspicuously post its privacy policy” by failing to include such a policy with its “Fly Delta” mobile application.

The California online privacy law

In 2004, California enacted the California Online Privacy Protection Act (“CalOPPA”). This law requires operators of websites and online services to “conspicuously post” privacy policies about the personal information that is collected, how the consumer can access or request changes to personal information, how the operator of the site will notify consumers of changes, and the effective date of the policy.

In the case of an online service, “conspicuously posting” a privacy policy requires that the policy be “reasonably accessible…for consumers of the online service.”

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Published on:

7 October 2012

Hotel Lawyer on hotels’ liability for failure to protect hotel guests personal identities

My partner Robert Braun advises hotel owners in a wide range of operational issues, including information management. Because of the ubiquitous use of credit cards by hotel guests during a stay, as well as the growing demand for WiFi availability, hotels have been increasingly targeted by identity thieves. In his article below, Bob explains how hotels’ liability for this new type of guest security has grown and what hotels can do to protect their guests’ identities.

Hotel Liability for Guest Information and Identity
What you need to know
by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

A version of this article was first published in the September 21, 2012 issue of Hotel Business and is reprinted with permission.

Not too long ago, keeping guest information safe was a fairly straightforward process – perhaps the most innovative development was providing an in-room safe for valuables. This approach made sense at the time, when guest security was a matter of securing people and their physical possessions.

The industry now recognizes that hotel guests have valuables to protect that go far beyond watches and wallets, or even laptops and iPads – – perhaps the most valuable information a hotel guest has is his or her identity, and unless a hotel actively safeguards it, those valuables are at risk. The ubiquity of credit card, wireless internet and other options, while essential to hotel operations, is also a source of insecurity.

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Published on:

24 August 2012

Hotel Lawyer on card processing fees.

The financial reforms following in the wake of the banking mess brought new regulations on the use and charges for credit and debit cards. There may be some benefits here for hoteliers, but there certainly are some decisions to make.

In addition to all the work he does on hotel management agreements and hotel franchise agreements, my partner Robert Braun represents a number of merchant card processors, banks and merchants in structuring credit card processing arrangements, both within the United States and internationally.

Today, he shares some of his insights on the recent legal changes in laws on card processing and the potential impact on the hotel industry.

Credit Card Fees and the Hospitality Industry
Impact of the Durbin Amendment
by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

Dodd-Frank affects hotels and other merchants

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 certainly sparked fierce debate about government regulation, consumer choice, innovation and entrepreneurship. The Durbin Amendment, a last-minute addition to the Dodd-Frank Act, drastically lowers swipe fees – the fee charged to merchants every time a customer pays with plastic – on debit cards issued by big banks, cutting into the banks’ revenue while, presumably, lowering costs for merchants and therefore consumers. The reduction in fees was significant: the Amendment reduced fees to 24 cents from a previous average of 43 cents, according to a Federal Reserve Board report.

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Published on:

17 July 2012

Hotels and restaurants are among many other businesses that monitor employees at work through video surveillance, and through employees’ use of company-issued computers and smart phones. While employers gain benefits such as reducing theft, decreasing liability and ensuring safety procedures are followed, employees can feel that this electronic monitoring violates their privacy. In his article below, Mark Adams, a litigator in JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®, shares with us how courts are ruling in lawsuits that deal with electronic surveillance of employees. He also gives employers advice on how to prevent these lawsuits from happening.

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Published on:

29 May 2012

HotelLawyer.com launches
Portal to knowledge for the hospitality industry
JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® hotel lawyers launch comprehensive hospitality resource
LOS ANGELES — May 29, 2012. Jim Butler, Chairman of the Global Hospitality Group® at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) announced today that the Group has officially launched HotelLawyer.com, a comprehensive resource for the hospitality industry.

“JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® is known for providing useful information, thoughtful analysis and a refreshing perspective to legal and business issues that affect the industry,” said Butler. “Our rich library of industry information is now organized in one convenient place — at HotelLawyer.com.”

On HotelLawyer.com, readers will find nearly 500 articles published over the years on the Hotel Law Blog, and the first two books in the We Wrote the Book™ series (The Lenders Handbook for Troubled Hotels and The HMA Handbook: Hotel Management Agreements for Owners, Developers, Investors and Lenders). These FREE resources continue to be accessed by thousands of readers each month.

Also available without cost at HotelLawyer.com are presentations from industry leaders, such as those given at JMBM’s 2012 Meet the Money® conference by Suzanne Mellen of HVS, Bruce Baltin of PKF Consulting, Greg Hartmann of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels and Alan Reay of Atlas Hospitality Group.

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Published on:

28 April 2009

Hospitality Lawyers on Innkeepers’ legal duties in dealing with Swine Flu and other infectious diseases. There is a lot of great information available about what Swine Flu is, how it is caused, and precautions people should take to avoid becoming infected. But there is very little guidance so far telling lodging operators what the legal and liability questions that apply to their operations.

That is why I turned to Jim Abrams, a valued senior member of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® and former President and CEO of the California Hotel & Lodging Association, for some help.

What are the legal ramifications of refusing guests who may appear ill or who have come from Mexico? What are the liabilities that an employer might face for not training and protecting employees? What practical steps should hoteliers be taking to deal with the outbreak? Here is what Jim told me.

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Published on:

27 April 2009

Hotel Lawyer with more information about the World Health Organization upgrade to “Phase 4” (on a 6 phase system) of the threat of a flu pandemic.

Today I received more reader comments on swine flu blog than I have for a long time. Clearly, blog readers are concerned about the swine flu catching the headlines. And after concern about health and safety issues, the potential implications of a “flu pandemic” are severe for the economy, and particularly, the travel and lodging industry. This was discussed in the article earlier today entitled Swine flu or SARS 2?

One of the bullet points in the cited article noted that the World Health Organization or WHO had increased its rating for the seriousness of this threat by a full notch to “phase 4.” In answer to your questions, here’s what that means.

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Published on:

27 April 2009

Hotel Lawyer with breaking concerns over a flu pandemic. International fears of a flu pandemic rose today as the death toll from swine flu in Mexico rose to 149. Cases have also been reported in the United States, Canada, Spain and New Zealand. What does this mean for the lodging industry and the economy?

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