Even Paradise Needs Risk Management


At the conclusion of the spring semester, my wife and I departed for a long anticipated vacation to Hawaii.  It was supposed to be our 25th anniversary trip, but that was two years ago.  Unforeseen circumstances (risk management of another kind) caused us to defer the trip until this year.  In spite of the delay, it was well worth the wait as we enjoyed the beautiful weather and exquisite scenery of Hawaiian paradise.

On the first morning of our vacation we began our day in the resort’s lovely outdoor dining area and a lavish breakfast buffet.  The tables were shaded by numerous large sun umbrellas scattered throughout the area.  As my lovely wife was returning to our table from the buffet, she stubbed her right “pinkie” toe on the small wheels that protruded from one such umbrella base.  Her pain was palpable and we suspected that she had just broken her toe.  Upon looking around, I noticed that some of the umbrella stands were covered with a carpet square to prevent such toe stubbing accidents, but several (including the offending stand near our table) had no such cover on their base.

My risk management brain kicked in and I sought out the resort’s security office to report the incident.  Not because we were intending to file any type of liability claim but rather to make sure that the resort’s risk management function could be made aware of the incident and take corrective actions.  They expressed sincere regret for my wife’s injury, offered her ice and first aid, and dutifully jotted down the details of the incident and our basic information (contact info, etc.).  What surprised me was the superficial nature of the security officer’s questions and the informality of his note-taking.  I would have expected a sophisticated resort company to have a more standardized form and process in place to record such incidents so that risk management would have a rich database of information on hazards and incidents on their property.

After a couple of hours at the Maui Memorial Medical Center, it was confirmed that my wife had indeed fractured her toe.  Fortunately, with some ice and ibuprofen, she was able to still enjoy the Hawaiian paradise.  At breakfast the following morning we immediately took notice of the fact that every single umbrella stand now had a carpet cover on its base.  We did leave a copy of the x-ray and discharge papers with the resort (though they surprisingly didn’t request it) as we checked out to leave for our next island.

We flew to the Big Island for the second phase of our vacation and checked into another very nice resort along the Kohala Coast.  As we strolled the grounds that evening, my wife somehow managed to stub the same broken toe on a rock along the edge of the sidewalk.  The rock was oblong and appeared to have rotated so that part of it protruded ever so slightly into the sidewalk’s path.  Although the resort had path lighting and tiki torches to illuminate their paths, this particular section had no such lighting.  In fact, I later noticed that some of their path lights were non-functional.  The risk manager within me began to shake my head and make that “tsk-tsk-tsk” sound.

The second stubbing of the already fractured toe nearly sent my wife into convulsions.  She later confessed that the pain at that moment rivaled that of childbirth.  That analogy did little for me except that I am intelligent enough to know that any reference to childbirth pain is not to be taken lightly – so I made the logical (and marriage-preserving) assumption that this was a serious amount of pain.  We once again reported the incident to the security officer at this resort, who was also very concerned for my wife’s comfort and brought her an ice pack.  However, this resort also had a very informal and superficial recording of the incident’s details.

My wife’s pain eventually subsided, and the vacation was thoroughly enjoyed by both of us in spite of the fractured (and subsequent dislocation) of toes.  Nevertheless, as I reflect on the two similar but separate incidents, I am still surprised by the cavalier approach to both incidents by the respective resorts’ security officers.  The risk manager in me would have liked to see a more formal and thorough recording of the details, and a more aggressive reaction to the incidents.  I would want to know that all such incidents, no matter how minor, were being fully documented so that they could be included in my risk assessments and risk mitigation techniques in the future.  Furthermore, when a customer is injured on property, studies show that future liability costs can be reduced by a prompt and proactive response.  In my former days in retail risk management, we endeavored to contact an injured customer within 24 hours because we knew that the more time they had to “stew” and suffer following their injury without hearing from us, the more likely they were to seek professional legal representation and pursue a formal complaint.

I’m not planning to contact a lawyer over my wife’s broken toe, but it does bother me that we have heard nothing from either resort (and they did at least take down our contact information) since the incidents.  In my estimation, that is another risk management failure on their part.  All in all, we had an exquisite time in Hawaii, and my wife’s toe is feeling better, although she has been referred to an orthopedist for evaluation.  This just goes to show that even in paradise, risk management is a crucial function within any organization, and should not be taken lightly by any firm that values safe and satisfied customers.


One thought on “Even Paradise Needs Risk Management

  1. Andrew Rennie

    Hi Dave,
    Sorry J….. had these problems and I hope she is recovering from the shock and pain.
    I couldn’t agree more with your comments.
    During the Sydney Olympics in 2000, a lawyer from a large US law firm who was attending the Games fell off a low platform (about kerb height) when wheeling a wheelchair on to a bus. Knowing how litigious some people are (and particularly when this incident involved a US lawyer!) our immediate response was one of OMG!
    Fortunately, the planned response process swung into action and the person was contacted within 24 hours with an offer of physiotherapy and any other medical assistance necessary. The outcome was an expression of gratitude and NO action whatsoever by the lawyer.
    I fully agree with you that even if no fault was thought to attach, people just need to feel that someone cares about them. When that doesn’t happen, they often feel aggrieved and writs start flying regardless of whether there was any blame – which does nobody any good.



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