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Hotel Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Consolidation To Be Considered By JPML Next Week

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A panel of judges will hear arguments next week on a motion to consolidate and centralize all hotel sex trafficking lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that major chains chose to pursue profits instead of taking actions that could have prevented women from being raped, abused and imprisoned in their hotels.

The Hilton, Wyndham, Days Inn, Super 8, Red Roof Inn, Quality Inn and other franchises have each been named in a growing number of lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide in recent months, each involving claims brought by adult or minor women who claim the hotels allowed their properties to become dens for sex trafficking operations that were obvious to staff members.

In many cases, plaintiffs allege that hotel managers ignored complaints from guests and law enforcement, indicating that the operators clearly recognized the obvious patterns of behavior and activity that sex trafficking was occurring. The lawsuits indicate the hotels profited from the activity, ignored federal laws seeking to curb hotel sex trafficking, and even berated employees who tried to stop the activities, because it would have resulted in losses of room occupancy.

Given similar questions of fact and law presented in dozens of claims being pursued nationwide, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in December, seeking to have all hotel sex trafficking cases consolidated before one judge for pretrial proceedings, to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting rulings and serve the convenience of parties, witnesses and the judicial system.

According to the motion, there are currently at least 23 cases pending in 12 different U.S. District Courts. However, according to law firms involved in the litigation, there are approximately 1,500 sex trafficking victims who have already retained lawyers to investigate and evaluate potential claims against the hotel industry.

Many of the hotel chains oppose consolidation, arguing that there is no common link between the claims to justify centralizing the cases before one judge. However, the problem is likely to be compounded in the coming months and years, as additional cases are filed.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the motion January 30 in Tampa, Florida.

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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