A Harris County jury has entered what is believed to be the largest sexual assault verdict against a hotel chain when it slapped $44 million against Hilton Management for its negligent role in an alleged 2017 sexual assault of a hotel guest.
The Nov. 18 verdict, which was not unanimous, found Hilton 90% liable and the alleged rapist, Larry Joe Clowers, 10% liable. Clowers had been criminally charged for the alleged assault but the charges were dropped in 2018 without prejudice — meaning he could again be charged with a crime.
Lawyers for Hilton declined to comment on the verdict and lawyers for Clowers said an appeal is coming.
In a statement, a Hilton spokesperson said the safety and security of hotel guests is the company’s “top priority” and it doesn’t “condone violence of any kind.
“Although Hilton typically does not comment on legal matters, we respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict and attest that our hotel team members acted at the direction of the Houston Police Department,” the statement said.
The trial team for the plaintiff, Kathleen Dawson, included Edward Blizzard and Anna Greenberg of Houston personal injury firm Blizzard Law. Dawson was also represented by Dallas lawyer Michelle Simpson Tuegel, perhaps best known for the $500 million settlement she obtained for Larry Nassar survivors against Michigan State University. At the time it was the largest settlement ever reached in a sexual abuse case involving an American university, according to a January 2020 profile of Tuegel in D Magazine.
Dawson brought her civil lawsuit in 2018 with claims that included negligence, gross negligence, negligent undertaking and premises liability against Hilton and an assault claim against Clowers. On the verdict form, the jury found that Clowers committed sexual assault against Dawson.
Hilton’s legal team included Houston attorneys Greg Holloway and Megan DeKeyzer of Taylor, Book, Allen & Morris.
Clowers’ legal team included Andy Drumheller, Derek Hollingsworth and Jeremy Monthy of Houston firm Drumheller, Hollingsworth & Monthy, as well as Houston criminal defense attorney Angela Weltin.
The case is Kathleen Ann Dawson vs. Hilton Management LLC, and Larry Joe Clowers, Jr. (No. 2018-84453) in Harris County.
For more details about the case, check out the Houston Chronicle’s report here.