Hotel to pay Sh23m compensation over death of guest at lodge

Keekorok Lodge has been ordered to pay Sh23 million to a family of Chinese tourist who was stabbed to death at the lodge in 2016.

Dong Yi, the husband of Luo Jinli sued the management of the hotel situated at the world-famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve for negligence after Luo was stabbed to death on August 8, 2016.

Dong was seriously injured during the incident. Evidence was that the couple were stabbed by Lee Changpin, a Chinese tour guide, allegedly over sitting space during dinner.

The 45-year-old woman was a security manager in Beijing and was in the company of her husband and scores of tourists who had visited the Mara.

They checked into Sun Africa Hotels which trades as Keekorok Lodge Maasai Mara on the fateful day and in the company of their tour guide identified as Mr Bai Jiang.

The family went to dinner at the restaurant but a verbal exchange between Luo and Mr Lee ensued. The tour guide was holding a steak knife during the quarrel.

The assailant is said to have demanded that they leave their table, prompting an argument, before he stabbed them both in the chest.

Justice Francis Gikonyo said fighting in restaurants is not strange or unforeseeable. He said some enterprises place workers trained in security at strategic positions just in case of any security lapse, who also keep finding out whether guests are okay.

“The defendant did not take reasonable measures to ensure the security of the plaintiff and the deceased in the restaurant,”

The judge added that prudence in security and risk management for such establishments is to proactively and continuously identify, assess risk areas and prescribe appropriate measures to mitigate risks.

“The evidence and circumstances of this case is an indictment of the defendant (the hotel) for breach of duty of care. The defendant did not seek indemnity or contribution from third parties it attempted to blame for the accident,” said the judge.

The hotel management defended itself saying there was adequate security and despite knowing that there was trouble, the tourists failed to report the incident. The hotel said the incident was not foreseen.

Mr Joseph Leshornat, the front manager at the hotel said the hotel was crowded and the guests went for dinner after arriving from a game drive. The hotel, he said, places steak knives on the table.

He said the team leader, Mr Jiang, was to blame because he never brought the incident to the attention of the security as the quarrel was in Chinese.

He said the appropriate standard of care for an occupier in the immediate context would entail inspecting the restaurant regularly and putting in place reasonable security procedure, systems and personnel at access points close to the restaurant

Mr Dong through his lawyer Conrad Maloba submitted that the hotel owes a duty of care to guests as the security of guests in the establishment is also paramount.

The lawyer said Ms Luo was earning Sh2 million annually at his work and her dependants included her mother, mother in-law and her husband.

The court said whereas there were guards outside patrolling the restaurant, there was nothing to show that there was any systems or security arrangement in place, to respond to any security lapse or incident promptly.

“It was surprising for him to say that the guests concerned were speaking in Chinese language at the top of their voices but no one respondent from the hotel to find out what was happening or save the situation,” the judge said.

Mr Dong sued the hotel in 2019 for pain and suffering, damages for loss of dependency and damages for loss of life expectation and special damages.

“In light thereof, the court finds and holds the defendant o be wholly liable for breach of duty of care to the plaintiff and the deceased,” the judge said.

The court awarded Mr Dong Sh100,000 for pain and suffering, loss of dependency of Sh21.5 million and another Sh727,000 as special damages.

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