Featured, Vacation Accidents

An Attorney’s Take On The Recent Spring Break Rape in Miami

Michael A. Winkleman

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Michael A. Winkleman is one of the nation’s top maritime lawyers. An active trial and appellate attorney, Mr. Winkleman is also a frequent contributing expert on maritime and cruise ship law. He has made more than 100 national television appearances regarding cruise ship law.

The city of Miami Beach Police Department reported the arrest of two men from Greensboro, NC for the alleged drugging and rape of a 24-year-old woman from Pennsylvania who later died. The arrest records show that on Thursday, March 18, the two men were caught on surveillance video walking into the hotel with the victim, Christine Englehardt of Pennsylvania, at around 1 a.m. Approximately 30 minutes later, the suspects, 21-year-old Evoire Collier and 24-year-old Dorian Taylor, left without her. They were arrested the next day. At the bond hearing, a Miami Beach detective testified that the victim did not appear to be in any condition to give consent to the two men. The two suspects have also been charged with possession of the victim’s stolen credit cards.  In our opinion, based on our vast experience in handling rape and sexual assault cases, it clearly appears that the Hotel may be held legally responsible for this preventable tragedy.

Potential for a Civil Negligence Case Against the Hotel

The victim was found dead the next day by the staff of the Albion Hotel. The police have not yet announced the cause of death but were trying to determine if the victim had overdosed from a green pill that she received from the suspects. While the criminal elements of this tragic incident are still being determined by law enforcement and the public defenders representing the two men, there is another aspect to consider: the civil liability of the Albion Hotel.

Every year, Miami Beach hotels open their doors to young guests for spring break, knowing that there will be a higher incidence of nefarious activities going on in the safe havens that they provide. While they receive increased seasonal fees, little of that money goes to enhanced security for their guests. While it would be difficult for a hotel to constantly monitor the activity of their guests — and few patrons would want that — there is a reasonable expectation that the premises are safe and secure.  And more particularly, in a time when there is a clearly heightened risk of rapes and sexual assaults due, at least in part, to excessive alcohol consumption, a hotel owner must take significant additional steps as it relates to safety and security for its guests.

Reasonable Precautions to Ensure Guest Safety

In our experience, some hotels on South Beach will hire additional, seasonal nighttime security or an off-duty police officer to monitor the comings and goings of guests and visitors, and to make certain that things don’t get out of hand, while other hotels place this burden on existing staff members who often lack the proper training to identify potential threats. With regard to the alleged rape and homicide at the Albion, a young woman returning from an evening where she had clearly indulged in alcohol, returning with two individuals who were not registered at the hotel, should have raised immediate red flags.

The Case Against the Albion Hotel

As attorneys who have handled more than one hundred rape and sexual assault negligence cases, we recognize that criminals will go to great lengths to circumvent security measures put into place by establishments.  From the preliminary reports, however, it seems that there were very few safeguards put into place by the Albion to ensure the safety of Ms. Englehardt or the other guests.  As such, there are some hard questions that need to be asked of this establishment as it relates to this preventable crime:

  • What, if any, increased safety and security protocols were in place over the spring break holiday?
  • Had anyone on the staff that night received training in hotel security?
  • Did Ms. Englehardt and the two suspects have to pass a front desk to get to her room and was it attended to?
  • Does the hotel require visitors to show their ID at the desk, particularly after normal business hours?
  • Did anyone on the staff note Ms. Englehardt’s intoxicated state?

Nothing can prevent a tragedy after it has occurred, but the responsible parties can be held accountable with the goal of preventing something like this from happening again.  When responsible hotel owners see that other hotel owners are held to account for preventable incidents like this, they are then forced to take the additional steps that are needed to keep people safe and secure on their property. Hotels and other establishments have a legal obligation to reasonably protect their patrons from harm.  In our opinion, the Albion may have breached this legal duty.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Englehardt family and we wish them strength in this time of grief.  If you or anyone you love was raped or sexually assaulted at a hotel, contact the attorneys of Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. We hold negligent actors accountable.  We have done so since 1971, and we will continue to do so for the next 50 years.

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