(NEW YORK) — A New Jersey woman claims in a federal lawsuit that she was attacked by prostitutes in the lobby of a Miami Beach hotel when she was mistaken for a competing prostitute encroaching on their turf.
“Plaintiff Anna Burgese was the subject of a completely unprovoked, sudden and brutal attack by an unknown number of defendants named as Jane Doe in this matter,” Anna Burgese’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
Burgese, 34, is the wife of wealthy Philadelphia builder Joseph Burgese, 50. The couple travel frequently between their home in Medford, N.J., and Florida, where they say they “regularly patronized” the W South Beach Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla., an area notorious for prostitution issues.
The alleged incident happened on Jan. 19, but the lawsuit was filed on May 28. The Burgeses are suing the W Hotel’s parent company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, for negligence, premises liability, assault, civil liability for criminal acts and loss of consortium, and claiming more than $75,000 in damages.
“We truly regret that this incident occurred and that one of our guests was injured,” Starwood said in a statement to ABC News. “The safety and security of our guests is our paramount priority, and we are taking this situation very seriously.”
The lawsuit claimed that Anna Burgese was “grabbed from behind and thrown with great force into a stone wall head-first” in the lobby. It added she was “tackled to the ground and struck” by her attacker or attackers.
“The husband was on crutches and he attempted to fend off the attacker with his crutches,” her attorney, Lance Rogers, told ABC News. “Nobody from the hotel actually separated them, at least that’s what my clients recall.”
Rogers said that the husband shouted for people at the hotel to apprehend the alleged attacker and he was originally assured that they had the person and identified her. The hotel later said they did not know her identity and could not hold her at the hotel, Rogers added.
An ambulance took Anna to Mt. Sinai Hospital and the suit claimed she was “seriously injured and suffered physical and mental anguish” as a result of the attack.
The suit claimed that the hotel “fosters a prostitute-friendly environment” and that Miami Beach Police told the couple that the alleged prostitutes “may have been under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and confused plaintiff Anna Burgese as competition, i.e., another prostitute who was capturing business at the hotel.”
The lawsuit identified up to 10 Jane Does as defendants, but Anna’s lawyer said the number was just a placeholder for potential accomplices. They believed it was just one woman who physically attacked Anna but that there may have been a group encouraging her and someone who helped that alleged attacker hail a taxi and leave after the brawl.
The hotel said claims that multiple people were attacking the guest were incorrect. Hotel officials would not comment further “due to pending litigation.”
The Miami Beach Police report identified one suspect and one victim. The unidentified suspect was described as wearing a red top, black pants and heels.
The lawsuit stated that Anna had a bloody lip after hitting her knee and lip on the ground and was treated and cleared on-scene.
Police were remaining tight-lipped about the case, citing the open case.
“We did what our calling was …to go there, take the report — whatever she told us at the time,” Miami Beach Police Det. Vivian Hernandez told ABC News. “And that’s why, from what we have, the reports that she’s giving to reporters and in the lawsuit are a little bit different than what she reported to the police that evening.”
Hernandez did not know anything about prostitutes being involved in the situation.
Rogers said the hotel was served with the lawsuit and has 20 days to respond.
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