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Expert Witness Services

Representative Engagements Follow

One can imagine that business disputes between parties have transpired since the first breath of commerce eons ago.  Certainly early men became angry over trades that went bad or promises that were made and then not delivered upon.  Perhaps in some instances disputes were settled in front of respected men of wisdom.  Perhaps in more instances the parties simply fell into battle with “justice” being awarded to the stronger or more clever. 

In today's world business relationships are governed by multiple layers of law, precedent, and social practice. Taken together these control and resolution mechanisms are extensive and highly complex.  In many instances the players to disputes have chosen, or are subject to, adjudication of disputes through the legal system or by arbitration.  The wise men of the courts then manage a process whereby the parties are given the opportunity to make their cases with the judge, the jury, the arbitrator or the regulatory agency then deciding the case.  This is the manner which we as a society have agreed best serves justice and avoids riot.

These rules-of-conduct require, not just wise men who might sit in judgment, but specialists who understand the rules-of-conduct and who can guide the process to benefit both justice and the interests of the partisans to the case.  In civil matters, these specialists include plaintiff and defense attorneys.  Another group of specialists who play a part in courtroom drama are expert witnesses.  These experts are recognized by the courts for their superior knowledge in various specialty areas, perhaps gained through career experience, academics, or training, and oftentimes steeped by the wisdom of years.  The courts or other adjudicating bodies permit and sometimes encourage use of expert witnesses in order to clarify, quantify, or otherwise explain issues that go beyond those typically understood by the average person.  They may deliver direct expert testimony to the court or body, they may deliver written expert reports, and/or they may act as behind-the-scenes knowledge specialists supporting counsel or the court.

Hotel and hospitality disputes have over the years increased as these industries have grown in size and, no doubt, because of the sophistication and complexity of the underlying business ventures, the nature of the owning and licensing parties, and the intricacies of product definition, branding, financing, operations, and marketing.  Today's hotel business is a far cry from the hotel business of our grandfathers and, for good or for bad, requires hotel experts to assist in the resolution of business disputes.

Mr. Kenneth Free, as Hotel Expert Witness

Kenneth Free, Straightline's Principal, can oftentimes be an excellent hospitality expert designee. Over the years he has served as expert witness before judicial bodies in many states of the USA, as well as in Canada, France, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and British West Indies. While typically appearing before courts of the state, he has also served in cases before bodies of arbitration, including JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc.), a Native American Tribal Court, and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (a World Bank entity). He has never been disqualified as an expert witness by any trial judge.

Mr. Free can be a solid expert witness for hotel disputes because of his deep real world experience, his academic credentials, and his demeanor of credibility. He is a true expert in hotels, resorts and related hospitality products. He does not venture beyond this industry as others sometimes do in venturing into it. We have seen “expert” witnesses who purported to be masters within this unique industry, but who in reality were generalists or who perhaps were knowledgeable in other industries such as commercial real estate or office buildings. The hotel business is highly specialized because it is a mix of commercial real estate and daily hotel operations mixed with significant marketing and branding components. Some “hotel experts” muddle their way through a case; Mr. Free can focus like a laser on the real issues.

Examples of cases and consulting engagements can be found throughout this website- please do browse to appreciate the depth of Mr. Free's experience.  Additional and specific detail concerning Mr. Free and his career can be found on the About Us page.  Further, a detailed Hotel Expert Witness CV is available upon request.

Types of cases served as a Hospitality Expert Witness:

  • Hotel and resort real estate development disputes
  • Hotel standard of care/duty of care issues
  • Hotel premises liability cases
  • Hotel and resort architectural, design, and project management issues
  • Hospitality breach of fiduciary duties cases
  • Hotel valuation or damages calculations
  • Hotel lost profits cases (frequently resulting from construction defects)
  • Hotel franchise disputes
  • Hotel management disputes
  • Hotel economics and business viability issues
  • Hospitality class actions
  • Hotel wrongful death

Some of our Expert witness Services Engagements follow...

  • California Desert Resort: Engaged for support by Plaintiff attorneys in case of errant golf ball that hit guest of spa adjacent to golf course in the eye.
  • Chicago 5-Star Hotel:  Engaged to defend standard of care as followed by hotel in a wedding-venue slip and fall involving flower petals thrown upon a dance floor.
  • International Timeshare Company: Engaged to support arbitration claims in multiple cases alleging deceptive sales practices.
  • San Francisco Historic Hotel: Engaged by Defense to comment upon impact of historic preservation issues upon un-renovated staircase involved in a trip and fall.
  • Major Las Vegas Hotel/Casino:  Engaged as part of team involved in class action related to Legionella Bacteria outbreak.
  • Houston Convention Hotel: Engaged to opine upon standard of care regarding door closures and electronic locks in an employee rape case
  • San Francisco 5-Star Hotel:  Personal injury case involving discharge of ammonia from guestroom minibar refrigerator.
  • Slip and Fall Cases:  Have been engaged for a variety of slip and fall cases by both Defense and Expert sides where industry standard of care issues have arisen.
  • California:  Defense expert witness concerning the economic viability of a plan to convert and expand a Disneyland-area resort hotel into a mixed use timeshare resort development.
  • Nevada:  Expert witness for plaintiff where damages of $163 million were sought for alleged failure of defendant to deliver on a loan commitment for plaintiff’s purchase of an 850-room hotel/casino and where defendant later acquired and flipped the property for his own gain. Damages calculations.
  • California:  Expert witness for defense in an instance of litigation where plaintiffs sought $115 million in damages for defendant’s failure to proceed with conversion of 145-unit bayside apartment complex into a fractional development. Damages calculations.
  • Ocean Liner:  Defense expert witness in case of Breach of Fiduciary Duty complaint for executives managing an ocean liner that had been converted into a hotel. Breach of fiduciary duty case.
  • California: Plaintiff expert in San Francisco class action concerning value of employer contributed room and board as a credit against wages.
  • California:  Engaged as expert witness concerning lost business claim for an extended stay hotel in a construction defects defense.
  • California:  Engaged as defense expert witness concerning economic damages component representing defense in a construction defects claim-all-suites hotel.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands:  Engaged as defense expert witness in litigation involving value for services of project executive partner for a private residence club. Compensation witness.
  • U.S. Northeast:  Plantiff expert witness in case involving diminution of value for 332-unit mountainside timeshare resort resulting from construction of adjacent wind turbines.
  • California:  Plantiff expert witness on the issue of standard of care concerning handling and retention of evidence causal to guest harm in a 5-star luxury hotel.
  • Anguilla:  Plantiff expert in residential and resort harms to unit owners in Caribbean beach resort where developer encroached upon their view planes and privacy with an adjacent building. Diminution of value case.
  • New York: Defense expert in case brought by Southeast Asian prince contending his Owner's Representative had unjustly enriched herself from his New York City hotel assets. Compensation expert.
  • Ohio: Engaged as plaintiff expert by counsel representing a city government alleging unpaid hotel transient occupancy taxes by multiple national online retail merchant travel agencies.  Mined for industry knowledge and workings.
  • Nevada:  Plaintiff expert witness at trial on behalf of county department of aviation concerning viability of a proposed high-rise timeshare resort on parcel where county had imposed development height restrictions. Calculation of damages.
  • Egypt:  Defense expert witness supporting the Arab Republic in a dispute with the developer of a planned 1,370-unit resort to be built within its borders. Economic viability issue.
  • California: Business interpretation of the California Vacation Ownership and Timeshare Act in a developer dispute with a group of owners as the law applies in a desert golf resort.
  • California: Identification of the colloquial use of the term “condominium” at a mountain lake resort, as pertains to defined coverage in an insurance policy.
  • Pennsylvania: Defense of asserted wrongful termination of the management agreement at a ski resort.
  • Dominican Republic: Plaintiff expert concerning duty of care owed by the brand affiliator as regards fire and life safety where such issue derived from the fire death of a resort guest.
  • California: Calculation of loss of business income caused by the extended renovation of a mid-market inn in an exclusive destination resort location (insurance defense).
  • California: Engaged as an expert concerning a general negligence/standard of care claim, involving a near drowning at the world’s largest gay resort.
  • California: Defense expert for $22 million business interuption claim resulting from alleged construction defects at the private beach club associated with a 5-star resort.
  • California: Defense expert engaged to opine upon the standard of care relative to a hotel’s decision to decline renewal of a reservation to a guest when the hotel discovered such guest was a convicted sexual offender.
  • Florida: Defense expert engaged in a case where the branded management company for a large resort was terminated under contended insufficient cause by the homeowners’ association.
  • Utah: Plaintiff expert engaged to determine harm to unit owners from developer’s withdrawal of usage rights within a mountain-located condo hotel.
  • U.S. Pacific Coast: Defense expert engaged to determine business interruption damages to a timeshare resort when a wildfire caused the sales line to close down.
  • California: Engaged in a bankruptcy to validate ability of hotel to support new debtservice in a Plan of Reorganization.
  • U.S. Mid-Central: Engaged as defense expert concerning the standard of care for specification and provision of guestroom window locks and the obligation of a franchisor in development of specifications and monitoring maintenance.
  • Nevada: Engaged as plaintiff expert concerning custom and standard practice for hotel real estate development contracts.
  • British Columbia: Defense against site down-zoning in a foreclosure action.
  • California: Defense expert relating to industry standards of care and homeowners association governance in asserted class action against high profile condo hotel developer.
  • Delaware: Standard of Care defense concerning rental agent service responsibilities in an incident involving a potentially infectious agent.
  • Missouri: Negligence/breach of duty concerning development and operation of a timeshare resort.
  • Nevada: Standard of Care in designing traffic paths through casino food court.
  • California: Standard of Care concerning protection of resort guests from wild bird attacks.
  • California: Duty to disclose presence of Legionella bacteria at change in hotel management companies.
  • California: Defense expert concerning operational Duty of Care as regards window safety.
  • Florida: Development of responsibility matrix among several entities in sexual harassment and human trafficking case.
  • Puerto Rico: Duty of Care of resort to vet vendors recommended for use to its guests.
  • USA Desert Resort: Duty of Care to protect guests against wind-borne objects.
  • Minnesota: Assistance in class-action suit contending theft of housekeeping gratuities by management.
  • Pennsylvania: Security breach concerning grant of unauthorized access to occupied guestroom.
  • California: Security breach concerning grant of unauthorized access to occupied guestroom and consequent alleged rape.
  • Wisconsin: Determination of Business Interruption damages resulting from design and construction defects in a $126 million redeveloped urban resort.
  • Southern California: Duty of Care concerning timely placement of emergency calls.
  • Arizona: Standard of Care re resort operations in a pool accident resulting in quadriplegia.
  • West Coast Indian Casino: Opined upon Business Interruption Damages resulting from alleged construction defects.
  • Southern California:  Engaged to opine upon responsibility of resort to have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) installed at swimming pool.  Child drowning case.


Ken Free

Kenneth Free
Phone: 805-373-6840