Woman wins $44M in suit against Houston Hilton Hotel after alleged sexual assault, lawyers say

The woman claimed Hilton Hotel staff failed to prevent the assault

HOUSTON – A woman has won a civil lawsuit against Hilton Management LLC and an accused man, Larry Clowers, after a jury determined that Hilton’s negligence played a sizeable role in the woman’s attack, according to a news release from the woman’s lawyers.

Kathleen Dawson, named and described by her lawyers as a “rape survivor,” was awarded $44 million for medical expenses, lost earnings, and mental anguish after the assault, and the jury assigned 90% of the responsibility to Hilton.

According to an account by Dawson’s lawyers -- The Blizzard Law Firm and attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel, “on the night in question, a woman passing by the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel in downtown Houston was called 911 after she saw a man, who had undone his pants and belt, standing over an incapacitated woman lying the ground. Police arrived and hotel staff brought out a wheelchair to transport Dawson, who was vomiting and unable to communicate or walk.”

The news release continued, “Although Dawson had identification in her purse, security staff failed to determine that she was a registered guest of the hotel with a room under her own name. However, Hilton only checked the identification of the accused (Clowers), and accepted his claim that ‘She’s with me.’

“Hilton security video shows a slumped-over Dawson being ushered by Hilton employees and put into his room,” the news release about the case continues. “Inside the room, Dawson awoke to the man sexually assaulting her in the early morning hours. When Dawson went to the hospital the following evening to have a rape kit examination, there were 10 documented injuries to her vaginal area, including significant tearing and abrasions. She also had symmetrical bruises on her shoulders, a bruise on her wrist, a bruise on her rib, and bruises on the back of her arm, all consistent with an assault.”

One of the attorneys representing Dawson, Michelle Simpson Tuegel, argued in closing, “Hilton Hotels, a company with security officers, policies, and resources, a company Kathleen paid to have a safe place to lay her head at night, paved the way to Kathleen’s sexual assault as she was ushered, like a ragdoll in Hilton’s wheelchair, not into the room she had registered and paid for, but into the room of a rapist.”

“Room key policies exist to prevent this very thing, but Hilton failed to implement even the most basic procedure everyone who has ever stayed in a hotel has experienced: checking the registered guest’s identification,” said Anna Greenberg, one of Dawson’s attorneys. “Worse yet, Hilton blamed the victim and sided with the alleged rapist, in spite of copious video and physical evidence corroborating the assault.”

“This verdict shows the ‘blame the victim’ tactic does not work the way it might have in the past,” Simpson Tuegel said. “We are gratified that the jury, in this case, was empowered and said with their verdict that an unresponsive person cannot possibly give consent. Of the sexual assault cases I’ve handled, which number in the hundreds, I have had few with this much objective evidence pointing not only to sexual assault but also to the negligence of a company and how they handled what was right in front of them.”

“I feel that my rapist and Hilton had to be held accountable, but it goes beyond that,” Dawson is quoted as saying according to the news release. “My husband and I were blessed with two twin daughters, and now, I feel a responsibility to make the world a better place for my little girls. I am grateful the jury heard me and validated what I’ve been through. I hope we see justice like this for more survivors in the future.”

A Hilton spokesperson released this statement on the lawsuit:

“At Hilton, the safety and security of our guests is a top priority and we do not 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.”

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.