Liability of the hotel keeper -
Article 1039 of the civil code deals with this. However this is not the only article related to liability of the hotel keeper. The issue is important because it provides an analysis of a number of legal topics we have seen in our course, such as responsibility for damages, quantification of damages, non-cumul and so on. Article 1039 does not deal with personal injury of the guest. It only deals with damage to property. The general principles of the civil code deals with person injury. In the case of person injury , we have to apply the general provisions on liability under the topic of responsibility: is the responsibility contractual or tortuous? Or both? ...view middle of the document...
this thus raises also an issue of classification. Should this article be categorised under another heading?
The background of article 1039 is the European Convention on the Liability of Hotelkeepers concerning the property of their guests; signed in 1962. Malta ratified the convention and thus it exerted its principles into Maltese legislation in 1966. The purpose of the convention was to establish common rules on liability of the hotel keeper to their guests’ property. How did this find its way in article 1039? Article 1039 only applies with respect to the liability against the guest. If the damage to property I suffer by for example someone at the restaurant of the hotel (not being a guest , thus having no sleeping accommodation) then article 1039 does not apply. As long as there is no sleeping accommodation, article 1039 does not apply, however any liability on the part of the hotel is not exonerated , but it is under the applicability of the general provisions on responsibility in the civil code. The general provisions of the convention apply only where there is a guest who has sleeping accommodation in the hotel; this means that an employee of the hotel is not covered.
There is a distinction between where there is a capping of liability of the hotel keeper and where there is no such capping. This is also seen in article 1039; (1) deals with situations where it is capped; (2) deals with situations of no capping, and thus of a limited liability.
1039. (1) A hotel-keeper shall be liable up to an amount not exceeding one hundred and seventy-four euro and seventy cents (174.70) for any damage to or destruction or loss of property brought to the hotel by any guest.
This liability is no dependant on fault. There is no fault requirement; however the liability is not absolute, because (5) allows the hotel keeper to raise certain defenses. There is no liability on sub-article (1) if the hotel keeper raises any of the defenses found in sub-article (5). The hotel keeper is liable up to 174.70 under sub-article (1) if the guest proves that property was brought in the hotel and this was damages, destroyed or stolen, unless the hotel keeper can establish one of the grounds exonerating him from liability under sub-article (5). Thus the rebuttable presumption of liability is subject to the defenses found under sub-article (5). The hotel keeper is also liable for stolen property while it was in the hotel.
(2) The liability of a hotel-keeper shall be unlimited -
(a) if the property has been deposited with him; or
(b) if he has refused to receive the deposit of property which he is bound under the provision of the next following sub-article to receive for safe custody; or
(c) in any case in which the damage to, or destruction or loss of, property has been caused, voluntarily or through negligence or lack of skill, even in a slight degree, by him or by a person in his employment or by any person for whose actions he is responsible.