Court clears Sands China of responsibility for guest’s suicide

The Court of Second Instance (TSI) has cleared gaming operator Sands China of any legal responsibility for the suicide of one of its guests.

The case dates back to July 29, 2016 when a woman from Mainland China was found dead by hanging in the bathroom of a Sands Cotai Central hotel room.

Two days prior the woman had gone back to the hotel room after gambling in a VIP room and was only found by hotel staff after she failed to check-out.

An investigation by the Judiciary Police (PJ) ruled the death as a suicide and discovered that the woman had borrowed money from four men at high-interest rates and had been kidnapped in the same hotel room by two of them.

Kidnapping cases in Macau are generally connected to forced gaming debt collections by loan shark groups.

The four men were charged by the Public Prosecutions Office for loan sharking and kidnapping but were found not guilty by the Court of First Instance (TJB) on May, 2018, but with the TSI later ruling the trial would have to be repeated following an appeal by the woman’s husband.

Meanwhile, the husband, son and parents of the deceased also filed an action against the hotel operator demanding more than MOP3.2 million in damages from Sands China.

On March 2019 the TJB ruled that the local Commercial Code considers that the host is responsible for the death or personal injury suffered by the guest or his companions during the period of their stay unless the cause of death is not attributable to him.

‘In this case, it was confirmed that the woman committed suicide by hanging and that there was no homicide. In this way, civil liability was excluded; therefore, the claim for compensation was rejected,’ the TJB argued at the time.

An appeal was then submitted to the TSI with the relative of the deceased arguing that the court could never have concluded that the hanging was motivated by suicide, as it did not have sufficient evidence, and that they could not have reached that conclusion before the final decision was handed down in the on-going criminal proceedings against the four men.

However, the court considered the cause of death had been defined by an autopsy, testimony from the hotel security guard who had found the woman hanging in the bathroom of the room hotel, and from PJ agents in charge of the investigation.

The TSI also considered that the court case involving the four men was focused on the charges of kidnapping and illegal lending, and on investigating the causality between the kidnapping and the suicide of the victim, but not to ascertain whether the victim’s death resulted from suicide or homicide.

Therefore, it was not considered that the judge in charge of the hotel operator liability case would have to wait for the final decision on the criminal case to issue a ruling.