The hotel and hospitality industry may be starting to realize the significant problems they face when looking the other way, in the face of their businesses being used for sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Victims of sex trafficking have a civil remedy against responsible persons and companies for violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1595. The federal statute allows victims to recover damages (and attorney’s fees) from a perpetrator and “whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has engaged in an act in violation of this chapter.”
Several district courts throughout the country have found not just the hotel operator, but also the franchisors (typically large hotel brands including Hilton, Marriott, Best Western, Intercontinental, and Choice Hotels) liable for damages.
Hotels, motels, and inns can no longer avoid liability for damages by turning a blind eye to this heinous activity. In a very recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the court held that telltale signs of sexual exploitation and trafficking, such as renting a room one night at a time and paying by cash or prepaid debit card each morning for another night’s stay (over multiple days), excessive foot traffic to the room through the night, requesting a room that is positioned so people coming onto the property can have easy access (such as facing the parking lot or street) were tip-offs to the sexual trafficking or sexual exploitation that was ongoing and denied the hotel’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. This comports with other decisions in federal courts of Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking are one more class of people who have can be devastatingly damaged by large hotel chains and their “independent” operators. To review and discuss a matter involving personal injury or damages by a guest of a hotel, motel or resort, including claims for sexual trafficking or exploitation, please speak with hotel liability attorney Mark K. Schwartz of Driggers, Schultz & Herbst.