New Netflix Documentary Revisits Wrongful Death Case Against the Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel is a site of mystery and notoriety in Downtown Los Angeles. Netflix’s newest true-crime docuseries, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, revisits the 2013 death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel, as well as the wrongful death lawsuit filed by her parents.

Lam made headlines for her shocking disappearance from the infamous hotel near Skid Row, and her body was discovered floating in one of the Cecil Hotel’s rooftop water tanks more than 2 weeks later. Although the circumstances surrounding Lam’s death were undoubtedly strange, authorities ultimately ruled the death an accidental drowning – and her parents sued as a result.

An Accident Waiting to Happen

According to the wrongful death lawsuit, the Cecil Hotel failed to make the premises safe for Lam and other guests by neglecting to lock the water tanks and keep guests off the roof. Attorneys for the Lam family said the unsecured water tank was “an accident waiting to happen.”

Nevertheless, the judge dismissed the negligence lawsuit, deciding that Lam’s death was unforeseeable because guests were not allowed on the roof.

Still, the Netflix documentary paints a damning picture of the Cecil Hotel, which had been rebranded as Stay on Main at the time of Lam’s death. Throughout history, the budget hotel has been home to many criminals, including infamous serial killers like Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger, at least 13 suicides, various murders, rape, prostitution, drug crimes, and even a tuberculosis outbreak.

Other Lawsuits

Lam’s family was not the only party to sue the hotel in connection with her death. Guests at the hotel drank, brushed their teeth, and bathed in water from the water tank during the period between Lam’s disappearance and the discovery of her body.

A class-action lawsuit filed in 2013 claims the hotel “provided water that had been contaminated by human remains and was not fit for human ingestion or to use to wash.” Plaintiffs sought damages for future medical expenses and “further relief as this court may deem just and proper” due to the trauma of drinking “corpse water.”

Legal Action Against Hotels

Although most hotel guests do not experience such unsavory injuries or tragic losses, hotels frequently become the defendants in personal injury cases. Hotels have a duty to keep their guests reasonably safe and keep their premises clear of hazardous conditions.

If you slip and fall on a wet floor in a hotel lobby or burn yourself with excessively hot tap water, the hotel may be to blame. Tedford & Associates can provide the legal support you need and help you file a premises liability lawsuit to recover compensation for medical bills, missed wages, and other damages.

When the worst happens, we are also available for wrongful death claims. We will dedicate our 38+ years of combined experience to your case, and we won’t charge any legal fees unless we win your case.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with legal questions or concerns – call us at (626) 325-0142 today or contact us online for a free consultation.


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