Econolodge Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Alleges Hotel Staff Engaged In, Profited From Abuse, Exploitation

Massachusetts Econolodge was known to be a center for sex trafficking activities, which the owners and operators profited from by failing to enact procedures that would have prevented the exploitation and abuse.

A woman has filed a sex trafficking lawsuit against Econolodge, alleging that employees not only failed to stop the sexual exploitation of her and others at a Massachusetts hotel, but also participated in it by failing to enact protocols and procedures that would have prevented the activities on their property.

The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on February 16, by an anonymous woman identified only as with the initials “B.B”.

The Econolodge sex trafficking lawsuit names SBP Realty Trust Inc. as the defendant, which does business as Econolodge Inn & Suites, indicating that the hotel operator failed to heed federal laws requiring establishments to take actions to ensure they do not become a haven for the kind of sex trafficking.

The complaint joins hundreds of hotel sex trafficking lawsuits filed nationwide in recent years, each raising similar allegations that operators placed profits before the safety of individuals being sexually exploited in their rooms and on their properties, by failing to take simple steps that would have prevented the exploitation of women and children at their hotels and motels.

According to the lawsuit, B.B. was induced by force, fraud and coercion into commercial sex acts at an Econolodge located in Northborough, MA in 2021 and 2022. Some of those activities involved her being forced to provide sexual services for hotel staff.

The lawsuit indicates that the Massachusetts Econolodge was known to be a location where sex trafficking occurred, likely before she had even arrived.

The Econolodge staff would have seen signs and been aware that sex trafficking was occurring at the location, and that she was likely being trafficked herself. However, they did nothing to prohibit the activities, choosing instead to continue to profit along with the sex traffickers.

The lawsuit indicates that the Econolodge’s operators were required under federal law to actively prevent such activities from occurring on their premises under The Trafficking Victims Protections Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). The laws provide a civil remedy for sex trafficking survivors to pursue claims against any party who received anything of value from knowingly participating in sex trafficking activities.

The plaintiff’s complaint notes that Econolodge profited financially from the use of its rooms for sex trafficking and allowed the activities to knowingly continue. The lawsuit notes the hotel had been put on notice by law enforcement and others of obvious ongoing sex trafficking, and even went as far as to participate in those activities.

“Defendant had knowledge of the prevalence of sexual trafficking within the hotel industry, yet Defendant failed to prevent and/or take steps to prevent this trafficking from occurring at the subject hotel, so that Defendant could continue earning a profit,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff’s sex trafficker(s) deliberately selected the Defendant’s hotel as a venue to conduct their sex trafficking activities.”

The lawsuit presents claims of violations of the TVPRA, negligence, violation of Massachusetts sex trafficking laws, and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

March 2024 Hotel Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Update

In 2020, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) rejected a request to form a hotel sex trafficking lawsuit MDL, suggesting that U.S. District Judges nationwide should be able to informally coordinate the litigation, without the need to transfer the cases to one court for coordinated discovery into common issues in the claims and pretrial proceedings.

At that time, there were only about two dozen such lawsuits filed nationwide. However, the size and scope of the litigation has grown dramatically over the past few years, and there are now at least 1,700 plaintiffs.

At the behest of Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley, who is presiding over at least 29 human trafficking lawsuits against hotel operators in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, a group of plaintiffs filed a new motion to establish a hotel sex trafficking lawsuit MDL in January 2024.

According to the motion, attempts at informal coordination have resulted in wasted judicial resources, duplicate discovery and inconsistent pretrial rulings, noting that there have been significant changes in the scope of the litigation since the panel first considered whether to centralize pretrial proceedings.

The hotel and motel operators still oppose consolidation, arguing that each claim should be handled individually, due to the varied situations under which each sex trafficking incident occurred.

The JPML is scheduled to hear oral arguments on consolidation of the hotel sex trafficking lawsuits during an upcoming session scheduled for March 28, 2024, at the U.S. District Court Hollings Judicial Annex in Charleston, South Carolina.

In complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims are filed throughout the federal court system by individuals who suffered similar injuries as a result of the same or similar products or venues, it is common for the federal court system to centralize the litigation for pretrial proceedings. However, if settlements are not reached during discovery or following a series of early “bellwether” trials, each claim may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed to go before a jury.

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