Days Inn sued over holes in walls

Published 6:59 pm Monday, May 24, 2004

By By John Dilmore Jr.
There was, at some point, a hole in the wall of room 206 of the Days Inn in Brewton. And room 106. The holes, filled in with a putty-like substance, were found by the Brewton Police, shortly after a family staying at the hotel alleged that their privacy had been invaded.
But who cut the holes, and what – if any – purpose they served is at the heart of a lawsuit currently making its way through the Escambia County Circuit Court.
"It is our position that all of these (holes) were created for the purpose of invasion of privacy," said Mobile attorney R. Tucker Yance, who has filed three lawsuits against the Brewton owners of the Days Inn, as well as Days Inn Worldwide.
Part of the lawsuit claims negligence on the part of the Patels.
"It is a complete and absolute outrage," Yance added. But Augustine Meaher, who represents Sarju Patel – whose family owns the local Days Inn in Brewton and a second Day's Inn in Atmore – tells a different story.
"Basically, we deny all those bad things that are said in the complaint," Meaher said of Yance's filings.
"There was a hole found in the sheetrock in Mr. Moye's room. The hole was plugged.
"We don't think there was invasion of his privacy through a plugged hole."
Asked whether his clients knew how the holes got there, Meaher said, "No, sir. We only wish that we knew, because it is still not clear to me or Mr. Patel how a hole would have gotten there."
This all started on June 23, 2001, when two generations of a clan from Decatur traveled to Brewton to attend a family reunion. Charles Moye and his wife, Elsa, checked into room 206 of the Days Inn, while their son, Andy Moye, along with his wife and
children, checked into room 106.
The next morning, the Moyes in room 106 discovered a hole in the wall of their room. Further inspection led to the discovery of a hole in the wall of Charles and Elsa Moye as well.
The family called police to the scene. Brewton Chief of Police Mickey Lovelace remembers going to the hotel that day, and finding spots on the wall that had obviously been holes, but which had been filled in with a putty-like substance.
"The hotel man was there showing where they had found these (holes)," Lovelace said. "But they had been covered."
Yance acknowledges that when Andy Moye found the hole in his room, it was filled. But he points out that there is no way to know how long it had been filled.
In fact, Yance said he believes he can prove in court that the hole had not been filled for long.
And Yance said that other violations of his clients' privacy were found as well, including mirrors with the silvering scraped off the backs to allow a person on the other side to see through.
As the lawsuit progressed, Yance obtained the right to conduct his own searches.
"We basically got to look at the entire hotel primesis," Yance said. "That's when we uncovered the multiple privacy problems – some of which had the putty-substance in them, and many of them did not even have that."
The holes in question all open onto utility chases between the rooms. These are narrow walkways that allow for access to plumbing, air conditioning and other machinery.
Meaher said that after the Moyes' complaint was brought to light, stricter security was enforced in regard to the chases.
"The utility chase was made even more secure, so there wouldn't be any question about someone being in the utility chase for any improper purpose," he said.
There are currently three different lawsuits against the Patels and Days Inn. Charles and Elsa Moye in one suit, Andy Moye in a second, and Julie Mummert in a third. Yance is the attorney for all three cases. Mummert stayed in the hotel last year, and filed suit when she learned of the alleged peepholes.
A status hearing in the cases is set for May 20. It will determine if any of them are yet ready to go to trial. Yance said that Andy Moye's case is ready, but the other two are not.

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