Yountville spa sued after employee convicted of raping guest

The hotel owed a reasonable duty of care to its guest, including a duty to provide for and assure her safety and security while at the hotel. Its lack of care and screening during the hiring process and the absence of proper employee training may well determine the impact of its reputation as well as its bottom line. Napa Valley Register, Maria Sestito, outlines the events.

 

An Oakland woman is suing Villagio Inn and Spa in Yountville, asserting that the business did not do enough to vet an employee that was later convicted of raping her in the spa.

A lawsuit filed against a luxury hotel and spa in Yountville by the victim of a 2013 rape is slowly making its way through Napa County Superior Court.

The victim, 38, a resident of Alameda County and referred to as Jane Doe, filed a civil suit against Villagio Inn & Spa and her assailant, Elbrick Pasayes Albizures, in April 2015.

Albizures was a Villagio employee at the time of the incident. Although Albizures said during his criminal trial that the sex was consensual, he was found guilty of rape and sexual penetration and sentenced to three years in prison nearly two years ago.

The civil suit is still in its infancy, however, said Jane Doe’s attorney, Jamon R. Hicks with Douglas Hicks Law out of Beverly Hills. The plaintiff is also being represented by Walton + Brown LLP in Columbus, Ohio.

The suit alleges that the business participated in negligent hiring, training and supervision as well as general negligence and violations of two civil codes that protect against discrimination and hate violence. It also alleges that the business was complicit in the sexual battery due to this negligence.

According to the suit, Jane Doe received massage services at the spa on April 13, 2013. While she was on the massage table, the masseur, Albizures, blindfolded her, touched her inappropriately, forced her to touch him and raped her.

During the criminal trial, Jane Doe testified she had received massages from the masseur for years at the same spa and had requested him that day. The woman, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, said she felt Albizures’ fingers in her groin area before he climbed on the table and penetrated her. She froze, then tried to push him off, she had told the court.

The attack caused her to suffer physical and psychological harm as well as harm to her personal and professional reputations, the suit asserts. “Albizures humiliated, degraded, violated and robbed [the] plaintiff of her dignity as a woman.”

 The plaintiff claims that Albizures did not possess a valid license to perform massage therapy, had no experience working in a spa or hotel before being hired by the business, was ignorant of massage industry standards and did not have ethics or communications training. Villagio Inn & Spa also failed to perform a background check on Albizures, according to the suit.

The “plaintiff reasonably believed that because she was receiving a massage at a reputable luxury hotel, her safety and security would be assured,” the suit asserts.

The Yountville business denied all allegations in an answer filed by attorney Kevin M. Smith with Supple & Canvel, LLP on Aug. 7, 2015.

In their answer to the complaint, the defendant alleges that the plaintiff was “careless, negligent or failed to care for her physical well-being” in the matter. The defendant also claims that the plaintiff had received massage services before, knew the risks involved and consented to and permitted the physical contact.

Hicks said that he was surprised that the fact the plaintiff had used the massage services before was cited in Villagio’s response. Just because there hadn’t been inappropriate contact before doesn’t mean there wasn’t inappropriate contact ever, he said. “It’s clear through the criminal case that there was no consent.”

Defendant’s attorney Smith was unable to be reached for a comment.

Elbrick Pasayes Albizures, who is also named in the suit, has not been served yet. Albizures, 32, is in custody at the California Institution for Men in Chino, according to vinelink.com.

A settlement conference is scheduled for Aug. 18, a trial management conference for Sept. 22, and a jury trial for Sept. 26.

 

 

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