Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Claims Wyndham, Ramada and Super 8 Motel Employees Ignored “Red Flags”

Lawsuit claims hotel employees were aware of obvious signs of sexual exploitation and physical abuse in their facilities, but ignored the sex trafficking to profit from the illegal activities.

An Arizona woman has filed a sex trafficking lawsuit against several major hotel and motel chains, indicating staff ignored obvious signs she was being forced to perform sexual services at their properties.

The complaint (PDF) was filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, by a woman identified only with the initials C.M.S, who is presenting claims against Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc., Ramada Worldwide, Inc. Sant Kabir, LLC, Golden Bridge International Investment Inc., Super8 Worldwide, Inc. Ars Hospitality LLC, Vista International Inc., Hilton Domestic Operational Company, Apple Nine Spe San Jose Inc. and Apple Eight Hospitality Ownership Inc. as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, C.M.S. was trafficked at various hotels and establishments from 2013 through 2015, during which she was abused and exploited by multiple traffickers at a Ramada Inn in Anaheim, California, and a Super8 in Escondido, California. Both are Wyndham brand properties.

During that time, the plaintiff was subjected to physical violence and forced to perform commercial sex acts for the traffickers’ financial benefit. These actions also benefited the motels and hotels where she stayed, the lawsuit notes. However, employees working for the defendants ignored her obvious plight, according to the lawsuit.

“Jane Doe (C.M.S.)’s trafficking had profound effects on her, consistent with ‘red flags’ of trafficking that are well-recognized in the hospitality industry,” the lawsuit notes. “These effects were obvious and apparent to the staff and management of the subject Wyndham hotels including effects on C.M.S.’s appearance, demeanor, movements throughout the hotel, and her interactions with her traffickers, hotel staff, and others. Observing these effects provided Defendants with notice that C.M.S. was being continually subjected to coercion, control, and exploitation.”

Hotel Sex Trafficking Lawsuits

The complaint joins hundreds of hotel sex trafficking lawsuits filed nationwide in recent months, 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 enact and enforce procedures that would have prevented the sex trafficking of women and children at their hotels and motels.

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 ahotel 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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