Similar to another post, customer lies to a hotel about their age, but it doesn't garner any damages.

i.e. A 17y/o purchases a room for the night, but lies and says they are 18.

It doesn't change the price, and a minor over 16 can legally purchase a room. Thus there are no legal damages. However some public "outrage" is garnered over it (no decrease in sales happen after the incident comes to light).

If the hotel wanted to, would they have any legal grounds against the 17y/o for lying?

  • What is the "other post" is it law.stackexchange.com/questions/27346/…. You can edit your question and include the URL. – James K May 22 at 10:17
  • You might want to supplement your description. Given that "a minor over 16" can get a room, why the public's "outrage"? what is the kid's motivation for representing that he is 18? – Iñaki Viggers May 22 at 11:38
  • @Inakai - it's to represent a "morality" difference held between the public and the law – Michael Burton May 23 at 15:40

Damages is an element of a common law claim for fraud, and of most other common law torts. Mere harm to the hotel's reputation as a result of the fact that it was deceived would not usually be actionable because the harm to reputation is based upon a true fact that it was actually deceived.

Lying to the business about certain matters for certain purposes (e.g. age for purpose of serving an alcoholic drink) may be crimes for the 17 year old, but not grounds for a lawsuit by the hotel against the lying guest.

A seventeen year old who lied to a hotel about his age might also be estopped from asserting (i.e. legally prevented from asserting due to one's own conduct) an affirmative defense of being a minor unable to enter into executory contracts against the hotel in a lawsuit for non-payment of a bill (and charged for damages to the premises, for example) on the ground that the seventeen year old was actually minor.

Usually the hotel would not have criminal or civil regulatory liability if it was not negligent in believing the lie (e.g. by not checking ID).

But some age related offenses are strict liability offenses for which the hotel would be punished even if it was reasonable in believing a lie that it was told. Some human trafficking statutes, for example, are particularly draconian about imposing severe punishments without proof of fault by an offender. In those case, it is conceivable that the hotel might have valid basis for a lawsuit to seek indemnification for its own losses from the misconduct of the lying guest, although this might be highly fact pattern specific and might also depend upon the terms of any contract between the hotel and the guest entered into when the guest books a stay with the hotel.

For example, the hotel might have a grounds for an indemnification suit against the lying guest if the guest was a pimp, but not if the guest was someone who was being trafficked who was under duress from a third-party pimp.


If there is "outrage" that is, potentially, damage to the hotel's reputation. But this has some significant problems before such a case can succeed.

There has to be some "wrong" done by the 17 y/o. Very often there is an implied duty to tell the truth, and so lying is very often wrong. But there are exceptions. There are many reasons that person might lie and not all are "wrong".

There has to be some harm that occurs as a result of the wrong. Damage to reputation is one possible harm. But in this case, I would ask if the damage was caused by the lie, or caused by the acts of the hotel. If, for example, a shop is selling cigarettes to children, and not checking age id, then the damage to the reputation is not caused by the lie, but by the failure of the shop to check. So the question here is, was it reasonable for the 17 y/o to expect the damage to reputation. Did the hotel cause its own loss of reputation. I think it would be very hard for the hotel to establish that the harm to its reputation was caused by the lie, and not caused by its own practices. It is not sufficient for the wrong to have merely offered the opportunity for the hotel to harm itself. You can't claim for losses that you could have reasonably avoided. These are the principles of "remoteness", "causation" and "mitigation".

Finally, there has to be something that the court can put right. If there has been no loss in bookings, then the hotel would have to argue that either bookings would have been expected to be even higher, or that there was some other way of establishing what the company has lost, for example, costs that the company has endured to correct the loss of reputation. Again these costs can't be things that the hotel should have been doing anyway.

So any such case would face considerable problems and would be unlikely to succeed.

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