Olley v Marlborough Court Ltd [1949] 1 KB 532

Validity of notice in hotel room purporting to exclude liability for lost or stolen articles

Facts

Olley was a guest in the defendant hotel. On arrival, Olley paid for a week’s board in advance and then went to the room. In the room, a notice was displayed stating the proprietors would not be responsible for any items lost or stolen, unless handed to them for safe keeping. Olley left the room and deposited her key on the board in reception before leaving the hotel. The key was taken and several items were stolen from her room. Olley sought damages in negligence.

Issues

Olley contended the hotel were negligent in failing to appropriately safeguard the keys to guest rooms. She further claimed there was an implied term within the contract between herself and the hotel that they would take reasonable care of her property in her bedroom. Olley asserted the failure to supervise the keys amounted to a breach of that contract. The hotel argued the guests were bound by the terms displayed on the notice in the bedrooms, and therefore, the hotel had effectively excluded liability even if they had been negligent. The notice was clearly visible in the bedrooms and the exclusion clause unambiguously absolved the hotel of any liability for stolen items. The hotel also argued that Olley had been contributorily negligent by depositing her key on the board in reception.

Held

Olley was successful in her claim and recovered the cost of the stolen items in their entirety. The exclusion clause had not been successfully incorporated into the contract because the contract was concluded at reception, and the notice purporting to exclude liability was not visible until after the contract was formed, when the guest entered the bedroom.