Here’s a strange case that comes to us by way of Andrew Neuwirth, a U.S. Navy submarine officer who lost his backpack while he was staying in Vina Del Mar, Chile.
At the heart of the question: To what extent is his hotel, the Hotel San Martin, responsible for what happened? And even if it isn’t liable, is there anything else our fearless team of advocates can do to help this seaman?
“I was checking out of the Hotel San Martin in Vina Del Mar, Chile, after completing a naval exercise there,” he explains. “I retrieved some things from my bag, placed it back near where the bellboy had delivered it to me, around several of my colleagues, and in clear view of the security guard, when a group of three women stole my backpack.”
“Besides my diplomatic passport, my brand-new MacBook Air, Bose headphones, Helly Hansen shirt, some books and other personal ítems were stolen,” he says.
“All told, I would put the value around $2,800,” he adds. “Can you help get the hotel to pay for their lack of security?”
The NCIS agent who reviewed the closed-circuit footage from the hotel said it was obvious that those three women were there to steal something. They first walked around the bar area looking for purses before returning to the lobby.
“I have a police report from the Chilean Investigation Service, but am confident that I will have no recourse from the hotel,” he adds. “All of my emails have gone unanswered.”
Why might the hotel be ignoring him? Maybe because it can. By now, Neuwirth is halfway around the world and can’t drop by to take the hotel to court. And even if he could, chances are that the Chilean lodging statutes will protect the innkeeper, making a claim for $2,800 an uphill climb.
So where does that leave him? I could contact the hotel on his behalf, but he may be better off filing a claim with his travel insurance or the credit card with which he purchased the merchandise he lost. In the end, that might be the most promising solution, if it’s possible.
There’s also this: When you’re traveling, you have to keep an eye on your luggage at all times. It looks as if Neuwirth may have been a little too trusting when he left his backpack near the bellboy and in clear view of the security guard. The best place for his backpack was on his back.
But I feel bad for this hotel guest. I’ve suffered a similar loss, so I have great sympathy for Neuwirth and would like to help. I’m just not sure if I can.