Monday, April 18, 2011

Who's To Blame, Legally, When Travel Goes Wrong? In Hawaii, The Answer Might Have Been Guidebook Publishers

(photo by Stephanie Koi)
You're climbing to the top of a famous mountain, you hit a patch of gravel, your foot slips and you plummet 50 feet, breaking your leg. Or you head to a famous restaurant where the food has unfortunately been touched by a sous chef with less-than-acceptable bathroom habits; you're sick for days, your vacation is ruined.

The very American question is: who do you sue? And if one Hawaiian legislator, with a shaky grasp of the US Constitution, had had his way, the answer would have been the publisher who printed the guidebook from which you got your travel suggestions.

Thankfully the latest attack on first amendment rights, Hawaii House Bill 548, has died in committee. It was vigorously opposed by the trade group Media Coalition. After the victory, Publisher's Weekly quoted CEO of the organization as saying "Holding authors and publishers financially liable for the actions of readers and private landowners will have a substantial chilling effect on them. They would inevitably limit what they wrote or what images they included in their guide books or on guide website to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit.” But he also went on to warn that the bill could be resurrected, as the Hawaiian legislator has a two-year session.

Let's hope this particular bill R.I.P.


  1. You should be aware that what prompted all of this is that the authors were guiding people to trespass on private land all over the State. When private landowners would tell tourist they were trespassing, the tourist would wave that book in their faces as places to go.

  2. I always think of a guide book - as hmmm....a guide. People have to use their own common sense when traveling. If you get sick from eating at a restaurant go after them-not an author who wrote the great review that got you to a particular location. Gee, get real people

  3. I think books should not be blamed. One should conduct thorough research on internet to confirm sometimes books are old and outdated.

  4. Turbcast is a great app for travelers.