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Sex Trafficking Lawsuits Allege Hotel Industry Earned Profits At Expense of Victims

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A growing number of major hotels face lawsuits brought on behalf of individuals who were victims of sex trafficking and sexual slavery in the United States, alleging that hotel profited by turning a blind eye to activities that openly occur at their properties.

In recent months, nearly two dozen sex trafficking lawsuits have been filed in federal district courts nationwide, including claims against Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, Days Inn, Super 8, Crowne Plaza, Best Western, Red Roof Inn, Intercontinental, Westmont, La Quinta, Extended Stay America, Econo Lodge, Howard Johnsons and other popular hotel brands.

Plaintiffs allege that it was obvious for the hotel operators what was happening, yet they placed profits before human misery by failing to enact and enforce standards and procedures that would have prevented the sex trade from openly occurring, often involving minor children.

In one of the more recent cases filed earlier this month, a woman identified only by the initials A.D. indicates that she is a survivor of sexual trafficking, claiming she endured brutal physical assaults, psychological torment, verbal abuse and false imprisonment at hotels owned by Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Inc. in Hampton, Virginia, including the Days Inn and Super 8 Motels.

“The Defendant financially benefited from sex trafficking of A.D. and other victims like her, and developed and maintained business models that attract and foster the commercial sex market for traffickers and buyers alike,” according to the complaint (PDF) filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The lawsuit indicates that the trafficker placed advertisements on websites like Backpage.com and Craigslist, and always used his name to book the rooms, paying in cash to rent a number of rooms at the hotels, for A.D. and other women he was exploiting. He also allegedly many of the hotel employees to remain quiet about his operation.

“Wyndham financially benefits from their ongoing reputation for privacy, discretion and the facilitation of commercial sex,” the lawsuit claims. “The Defendant failed to take any steps to alert authorities, properly intervene in the situation, or take reasonable security steps to improve awareness of sex trafficking and/or prevent sexual exploitation on their properties.”

Given similar questions of fact and law presented in dozens of similar sex trafficking lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, a motion for transfer (PDF) was filed this week with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, seeking to have all of the cases consolidated before one judge for pretrial proceedings.

According to the motion, there are currently at least 21 cases pending in 12 different U.S. District Courts. However, according to law firms around the country, the motion indicates that there are approximately 1,500 sex trafficking victims who have already retained lawyers to investigate and evaluate claims against the hotel industry.

“Human traffickers have capitalized on the hospitality industry’s refusal to adopt and implement industry-wide standards and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, training hotel staff on how to identify obvious and well-known signs of sex trafficking,” the motion states.

Each of the lawsuits claim that the hotels violated the law by renting rooms to individuals it knew or should have known were engaged in sex trafficking.

To reduce duplicative discovery in cases throughout the federal court system, and avoid conflicting pretrial schedules and rulings, the motion seeks to centralize the claim before one judge for discovery and management of the growing sex trafficking litigation.

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