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Former guest loses suit against Gresham hotel

B.T. Adams contends thefts are preventable

A nuclear engineering contractor sued a Gresham hotel after his vehicle was broken into and 30-years of work records stolen, but he lost his case in small claims court Monday, Aug. 15.

'Obviously I'm not happy with the outcome,' said B.T. Adams, 47, who is originally from Texas but has no permanent address due to his job, which has him constantly traveling across the country. 'I'll sleep tonight. I don't know how they do.'

Adams sued Extended Stay America, located in the 17700 block of Northeast Sacramento Street, just south of Interstate 84 in Gresham, after thieves broke into his 1999 Ford Expedition early Jan 17.

Like many patrons of extended stay motels, which come furnished with kitchenettes and appeal to long-term business travelers, Adams had cooking supplies, plus computer equipment and the tools of his trade - work records dating back 30 years - in his vehicle.

'The only thing the thieves left was a plastic bag with my dirty underwear,' he said, adding that they also stole the titles to his vehicle and boat, both of which he'd planned to sell at the Portland Boat Show.

Thieves later used credit card receipts stolen from his vehicle to get $259 in cash from a Portland motel.

Adams argued that the lack of security and surveillance at the motel, and what he considered the hotel's attempts to hide the vehicular break-ins that routinely occur in their lot, makes the company 'culpable and complicit in these repeated thefts.' As such he asked for the maximum amount allowed in small claims court - $7,500.

'This is organized thieves who are actively targeting this particular hotel property for vehicle break-ins because they know that they can do this activity indefinitely and with impunity,' he said. 'The hotel management refused to take any action to prevent these crimes and intentionally conceals these activities from both current and potential guests. The patrons of this motel travel for a living and cannot empty their vehicles of their entire contents on a daily basis. These are not luxury items being stolen. These are the tools of their trade. Guests cannot protect themselves and can only hope to minimize their inevitable losses.'

The judge, however, found in favor of the hotel, citing about a dozen signs warning patrons to not leave valuables in vehicles, and stating the hotel is not liable for damage to or loss from vehicles.

So now what?

'I do nothing,' Adams said, adding that he's airport bound for a job on the East Coast. But he's hoping others who've had cars broken into at the hotel join forces for a class-action lawsuit.

'In a class action lawsuit the judge would not have thrown out 14 other break-ins, two witnesses and a listing of six pages worth of police calls for the same hotel,' Adams said. 'Putting up signs saying we're not liable and there have been at least 15 break-ins in a year? That's not right.'