Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mumbai hotel ordered to pay compensation to guests who were trapped in its lift 18 years ago

Eighteen years after three Indians and three Europeans were trapped in the lift of The Ambassador in south Mumbai for two-and-a-half hours, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has ordered M/s Narangs International Hotel Pvt Ltd, which owns the hotel, to pay Rs 2 lakh (£2,300, $3,650) to each of the six complainants. The hotel will also have to pay Rs 10,000 (£115, $180) as costs to New Delhi-based Radha and Ram Venuprasad, England-based Roy and Sylvia Short, Greece-based Sotiriadis Themistoklis and Kerela-based Sunil Sreedharan. Holding

The Ambassador guilty of deficiency in service, the commission held that "the hotel was squarely negligent in not ensuring proper maintenance of the lifts and not taking prompt or immediate or timely steps to rescue the trapped complainants". According to the petition filed by 10 complainants on February 28, 1994, there was no electricity in the hotel from 12.30am till 6.45am. The complainants alleged that they had to endure a harrowing time and spend a restless night. The following night, six of them were on their way from the lobby to the revolving restaurant on the 12th floor when the lift stopped functioning between the 11th and 12th floors.

After being trapped in the lift for two-and-a-half hours, the guests were physically pulled through a hole made by cutting the iron grill at the top of the lift's cabin. They also alleged that the process involved constant hammering of iron grills, as a result of which glass panels fitted inside the lift broke into pieces and fell on those trapped inside. The atmosphere was intensely claustrophobic and abhorrent, they said. The hotel blamed the lift company responsible for the upkeep and maintenance and filed a separate petition in 1996. Both the petitions - one filed by the guests and the other by the hotel - were heard together.

The commission took into consideration the evidence, including the cross-examination of witnesses, and the fact that the lift company had repeatedly advised the hotel to accept its estimate of repair and shutdown the lifts for maintenance. While the commission accepted contentions in the petition of those trapped in the lift, it dismissed the petition filed by the hotel against the lift company. It observed that the hotel staff was misusing the lift. The hotel ought to have acted promptly and ensured the repair or replacement of its lifts. It appears that the hotel had developed an indifferent attitude and inertia had set in so long as its business was going on, albeit not fully satisfying the service to its customers.

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