Jim Boyle Jul. 24, 2014, 1:33pm


A Northampton County family has filed a lawsuit with the Philadelphia Court of Common

Pleas against Ritz-Carlton Hotels, saying its poor security and negligent hiring practices were responsible for a bellman's sexual assault of their 15-year-old daughter while they vacationed in the Grand Caymans in 2013.

The parents, who are unidentified in the complaint and given the pseudonyms John and Jane Doe, seek compensatory and punitive damages from the luxury hotel chain for the physical and psychological damage allegedly suffered by their daughter, identified as Mary Doe in court documents.

According to the complaint, the family arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Hotel on March 24, 2013, and checked into adjoining second floor rooms. They first encountered the bellman, Iyilla Delmar Spence, a few days later when the parents asked for restaurant recommendations. He spoke to Mary later that day and complimented her shirt, the suit says.

The next day, Spence assisted Mary's purchase of a pack of playing cards, escorted her to the elevator, then offered a tour of the hotel. During the tour, the complaint says, Spence grabbed Mary's buttocks, and she jumped and told him "no."

When they reached the platform on the second floor of the stairwell, he backed Mary to the wall and sexually assaulted her, according to the court documents. The sound of someone approaching forced Spence to stop and run off, telling Mary to meet him the next morning.

The following morning, Mary did not meet Spence, but she did accompany her father to the lobby on his way to scuba dive. Spence approached Mary, and she spoke to him briefly and returned to her room, according to the complaint.

The suit says that other staff members knew of Spence's intentions and did nothing to warn the plaintiffs. In fact, the complaint says, another employee left a message on her room phone that she had to pick up a package in the lobby. On her way down, Spence encountered Mary, gave her a gift, then accompanied her back to her room where he sexually assaulted her again, the suit says.

At dinner that night, Mary reported the assault to her parents, who immediately contacted the local police department. During questioning, Spence allegedly denied being in contact with Mary or entering her room. However, the complaint says, security footage and DNA tests of Mary's clothing and bedsheets contradicted him.

The plaintiffs say that the staff and management at Ritz-Carlton's Grand Cayman Hotel had a duty to ensure their guests' safety and prevent foreseeable harm to Mary. According to the complaint, the defendants negligently allowed Spence to socialize in a suggestive way with Mary and failed to provide diligent security.

As a result of the alleged recklessness, Mary has endured ongoing pain and suffering both physically and mentally. Her family has to provide funds for the required medical care Mary needs to cope with the incident, according to the court documents.

The plaintiffs are represented by Mark W. Tanner of Feldman, Shepherd, Wohlgelernter, Tanner, Weinstock & Dodig, LLP in Philadelphia.

The case ID number is 140602376.

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