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Human Trafficking Lawsuits

Our firm is representing victims of human trafficking in lawsuits against hotels, websites, and other businesses that negligently allowed the exploitation to happen and/or profited from it.

Victims are now able to sue and get financial compensation from businesses for negligently (or intentionally) facilitating, supporting, or promoting sexual exploitation.

On this page, we will define human trafficking, identify the businesses that often facilitate or profit from it, and explain when victims of human trafficking might be able to sue these businesses and get money damages.



June 6, 2024: A Baltimore woman, Kenika Leach, was indicted this week by a grand jury in Washington County, Maryland. She is facing 135 criminal counts for allegedly running a major sex trafficking operation. Leach allegedly transported female victims from Hagerstown to Baltimore for the purpose of working in the commercial sex trade. Most of the victims were drug addicts, and Leach apparently induced them to comply by giving them drugs, then forcing them to repay their “drug debt” by acting as prostitutes.

You can certain bet hotel trafficking lawsuit will come out this.

April 16, 2024: The JPML recently denied a request to consolidate all sex trafficking lawsuits against major hotel companies into a new “class action” MDL. The request included 33 different sex trafficking lawsuits pending in 5 different federal districts. In denying the request, the JPML found that consolidation was not appropriate in light of unique factual circumstances involved in each separate case.

April 4, 2024: A federal court judge in Ohio granted summary judgment in favor of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts Inc., Days Inn,  Choice Hotels International, Red Roof Inns and Red Roof Franchising in a sex trafficking lawsuit.  This ruling effectively dismissed the survivor’s claims that these entities should have detected signs of trafficking and intervened. Judge Gwin found that the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that these companies had direct knowledge of her being trafficked.

The plaintiff did get a sex trafficking settlement with the hotels themselves, Six Continents Hotels Inc. and Holiday Hospitality Franchising LLC, which the judge approved at the same time the summary judgment order was issued. .

The summary judgment motion was curious. This was a legal motion on vicarious liability.  Yet the judge saw it fit to address what the court said were inconsistencies between the plaintiff’s allegations and her testimony, particularly regarding her level of isolation by traffickers. Despite allegations of being kept away from outside contact, S.C. admitted to interacting with court officials, police, and others during her period of trafficking. This had nothing to do with the court’s ruling.  The judge admitted in the ruling that she alleged facts sufficient to support a claim.

No one reading this should conclude that a sex trafficking victim must be kept a prisoner 24 hours a day to have a viable claim. Millions of dollars have been paid by juries and in human sex trafficking settlements where the victim had ample opportunities to contact their family or the police.

February 21, 2024: A woman identified as Jane Doe has filed a civil lawsuit against hotel owners and operators, seeking compensation for damages related to sex trafficking she endured at their properties. The complaint outlines that sex trafficking, defined by federal law, involves exploiting individuals for commercial sex acts through coercion, force, or manipulation, and has become a significant public health crisis in the United States.

This woman alleges she was subjected to unlawful sex trafficking at hotels owned and operated by the defendants beginning in 2013. Over several years, she was controlled by multiple traffickers through physical violence and coercion, forcing her to engage in commercial sex acts against her will. Specific incidents of trafficking occurred in 2014 at Wyndham brand properties, including the Ramada in Anaheim, California, and the Super8 in Escondido, California.

The complaint highlights that the defendants benefited financially from providing venues for traffickers to exploit victims like Jane Doe, with clear signs of trafficking apparent to hotel staff and management.

The lawsuit also emphasizes the widespread issue of sex trafficking within the hotel industry, noting that hotels are a primary venue for such illegal activities. It discusses the efforts by government agencies and nonprofits to educate the hotel industry on identifying and responding to signs of trafficking. Despite these efforts and the availability of training resources, the defendants allegedly failed to implement effective policies or train their staff adequately to prevent or respond to trafficking on their premises.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) provides victims with a specific civil remedy against their traffickers in cases like this. The law has been amended to hold those financially benefiting from sex trafficking ventures accountable, even if they are not directly involved in criminal acts.

January 17, 2024:  Attorneys focusing on human trafficking lawsuits have requested the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate various lawsuits into a single multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Ohio.

Like a class action lawsuit, this move aims to bring all related cases together for pretrial proceedings (and potential settlement) under a single judge. This effort follows guidance from Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley of Columbus, Ohio, who suggested this course of action during a December hearing.

Judge Marbley, currently managing 29 such lawsuits, has indicated his readiness to preside over the MDL if it is established. These lawsuits are based on the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, allowing human trafficking victims to challenge those who have knowingly profited from their suffering legally.

Four years ago, a similar attempt by human trafficking attorneys to centralize lawsuits was not approved by the JPML panel. However, the increased awareness and understanding of sexual assault issues in 2024 compared to 2020 may now make the formation of a class action more timely and appropriate. Among the defendants in these lawsuits are major hotel chains, including Wyndham, Red Roof, and Best Western International, all accused of benefiting from human trafficking activities.

December 14, 2023: We have a new human trafficking lawsuit settlement.  A man orchestrated a meeting with an 11-year-old via Instagram. He used Lyft to transport the girl to a Days Inn hotel, where he sexually assaulted her. The girl’s legal representatives sued Lyft and, subsequently, the Days Inn for failing to take adequate measures to prevent the incident. The lawsuit, initiated by the girl and her mother, claimed that Lyft did not adhere to its policy of not allowing drivers to transport unaccompanied minors, as Lyft drivers facilitated the girl’s transportation to meet the perpetrator. Lyft and two Days Inn hotels ultimately agreed to a $9 million settlement to resolve the lawsuit. (Learn more about ride-share sex abuse lawsuits.)

November 28, 2023: A group of women, identified as Jane Does 2-4 and the estate of the late Jane Doe 1, settled a sex trafficking lawsuit against the owners and operators of several Atlanta-area hotels on the eve of trial. They accused the hotel businesses of ignoring sex trafficking activities on their premises from 2010 to 2016. The women alleged that the hotel staff were complicit, acting as lookouts for traffickers and, in some instances, even soliciting sex.

Their sex trafficking lawsuit alleged that obvious signs, such as frequent short visits by numerous men and the physical condition of the women in the rooms, should have alerted the hotel owners and operators to the trafficking. Despite denials from the hotel companies, including Red Roof Inn, and the dismissal of some defendants earlier in the case, the lawsuit was settled just before the scheduled trial. The details of the settlement are not disclosed.

November 8, 2023: The Georgia Court of Appeals recently made a significant ruling in a sex trafficking lawsuit against America’s Best Inn & Suites. In a unanimous decision, the court held that premises liability and nuisance claims can be brought against a hotel where a woman, trafficked as a 17-year-old, is suing for negligence. This state appellate decision is a first for Georgia, allowing victims to pursue state-law tort claims, like premises liability, in civil sex trafficking cases.

September 18, 2023: A California federal judge recently ruled on a lawsuit involving sex trafficking allegations against several hotels and their franchisors. The judge allowed the claims to proceed against only Concord Inn and Suites LLP and its franchisor G6 Hospitality, dismissing the claims against four other hotels and their franchisors.

The plaintiff, identified as B.J., accused these hotels of participating in her sex trafficking. The plaintiff met her trafficker through Facebook, who, under the guise of a romantic relationship, promised her support and a better life. Upon learning of her vulnerability, the trafficker coerced the plaintiff into meeting him and then subjected her to physical, sexual, and psychological abuse at the aforementioned hotels. The trafficker enforced a strict quota system, forcing the plaintiff to meet a daily minimum income through sex work. Failure to meet this quota meant it carried over to the next day, and the plaintiff was restricted from leaving the hotel rooms, including to care for her children.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants ignored clear indications of commercial sex trafficking on their properties and failed to ensure her safety. She contends that the hotels profited from the trafficking by renting rooms to her traffickers, who used these rooms to exploit and abuse sex trafficking victims. The lawsuit accuses the hotel owners, operators, managers, and franchisors of negligence and complicity in the trafficking operation..

However, the judge found that B.J. failed to adequately demonstrate that employees of the San Ramon Marriott, Residence Inn Concord, Clarion Hotel, and Hilton Concord knew or should have known about the sex trafficking taking place. The judge noted that while the plaintiff’s suit alleged obvious indicators of trafficking, there was no evidence that hotel employees recognized these signs or understood their significance.  Should that matter?  No.  If a reasonable person would have identified those clues as sex trafficking and did nothing, that should be enough.  Unfortunately, the judge saw it differently.

Still, plaintiffs’ sex trafficking lawsuit survives.  For the claims against Concord Inn and G6, the judge found the allegations sufficient. B.J. claimed that the hotel’s manager was not only aware of her trafficking situation but also participated in it and offered advice to her trafficker. The manager and other hotel employees allegedly engaged in the operation by caring for the children of B.J. and other trafficked women while they were sold for sex at the hotel. These allegations were deemed enough to infer awareness by both Concord Inn and G6, allowing the direct beneficiary claims against them to proceed..

August 4, 2023: Yesterday, a divided Seventh Circuit revived claims against Salesforce for its alleged involvement in sex trafficking through its contract with the now-defunct classified ad site Backpage.

The lawsuit was initiated by the mother of a 13-year-old girl, identified as G.G., who was advertised for sex on Backpage by a trafficker. It alleges that Salesforce, by providing business software to Backpage starting in 2013, should have known about the illegal trafficking on the site and violated anti-trafficking laws by supporting Backpage.

Does Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally protects online platforms from civil claims for third-party content, defeat the plaintiff’s sex trafficking lawsuit?  The court concluded that the plaintiff’s claims against Salesforce do not fall under Section 230’s coverage.  The Seventh Circuit’s majority ruled that Salesforce could be liable under a 2008 amendment to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which created liability for those who knowingly benefit from participation in sex trafficking ventures. The court emphasized that Salesforce could be held accountable even if it was not aware of G.G.’s specific situation and despite Backpage not being primarily a sex trafficking venture.

Judge David Hamilton, writing for the majority, noted that requiring specificity in such cases would severely undermine the statute, allowing companies like Salesforce to ignore individual victims’ situations. The court rejected Salesforce’s argument that it was indirectly involved in G.G.’s trafficking, noting the company’s direct and supportive relationship with Backpage.

This decision is seen as potentially impacting many similar lawsuits alleging civil claims over sex trafficking, with the ruling providing a roadmap for suing other Backpage vendors and surviving a motion to dismiss.

What Does “Human Trafficking” Mean?

Human trafficking is the practice of using force, coercion, or fraud to compel individuals into providing labor or service. Most human trafficking involves sexual exploitation.

A decade ago, the term “human trafficking” specifically referred to the act of illegally transporting individuals into a country for compulsory labor or sexual exploitation. The classic example of human trafficking under this framework was smuggling immigrants into the country and putting them to work in the sex industry.

Today, however, the legal definition of human trafficking has evolved and expanded to include all aspects of the exploitation system. The crime of human trafficking can occur with or without any smuggling across the border. Trafficking humans occurs whenever individuals are forced into servitude by means of threats, fraud, or other methods of coercion.

Who Can Be a Victim of Human Trafficking?

One of the biggest misconceptions about human trafficking is that the victims of this system are always desperate foreign people from underdeveloped countries. The truth is that almost anyone can become a victim of human trafficking. Well-educated, affluent, American citizens can become victims of human trafficking. However, individuals at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder are much more likely to become victims.

Both men and women can be victimized by human trafficking, although women are much more likely to be victimized. Most estimates suggested that women account for at least 70% of human trafficking victims. Sadly, children are also commonly victimized by human trafficking.

How Does Human Trafficking Occur?

Human trafficking can occur in almost an infinite number of ways. However, the classic and most common form of human trafficking involves transporting victims out of their home country. Victims are often recruited with fraudulent promises of economic opportunities or normal employment arrangements. In some cases, however, victims are forcibly abducted.

After recruitment (or abduction), the victims are then illegally transported into the United States. Once in the U.S., the victims are particularly vulnerable and various forms of coercion are employed to compel them to provide labor or services.

What Industries are People Trafficked For?

Human trafficking can occur in any industry, but there are certain industries that most victims of trafficking end up in. The industries most frequently associated with human trafficking are:

  • Sex Industry: the largest percentage of human trafficking victims end up being forced to work in the sex industry either as prostitutes or entertainers.
  • Manual Labor: some victims of trafficking end up being forced to work in manual labor jobs, often for contractors or at factories.
  • Agriculture: agriculture is another very common destination for victims of human trafficking, especially in certain areas that require large pools of seasonal labor.
  • Hospitality: trafficking victims also can end up working in the hospitality industry at places like hotels or cleaning services.

Victims of Human Trafficking Can Now File Lawsuits

In the past, victims of human trafficking had very little in the way of legal options. Criminal prosecution of human traffickers has always been very difficult for a variety of reasons. The perpetrators are often elusive and hard to identify and the necessary proof is often difficult to present. In any event, criminal prosecution does nothing to help the victims of trafficking get back on their feet.

Today, however, victims of human trafficking have another legal option: they can file a civil lawsuit against commercial businesses that facilitated or profited from human trafficking and exploitation. Federal state laws now permit victims of trafficking to recover money damages from businesses that financially benefitted from their exploitation. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) gives victims of human trafficking the legal right to bring civil cases against any business or individual that “knowingly benefitted” from participation in a trafficking venture.

Human Trafficking Lawsuits Against Big Hotel Chains

The new rights created by the TVPRA have given rise to a number of major civil lawsuits brought by victims of human trafficking. Over the last 2 years, lawsuits have been filed across the country by trafficking victims against major hotel companies such as Hilton, Marriott, and Wyndham. These lawsuits are being filed on the grounds that the hotels knew (or should have known) that sex trafficking and exploitation were occurring at their hotels and that they profited from these activities. Some of these lawsuits have resulted in major financial settlements.

Human trafficking lawsuits against hotels may occur when a hotel is found to have been complicit in or knowingly allowed human trafficking to occur on its premises. These lawsuits may be brought by the victims of trafficking or by government agencies. These types of lawsuits typically allege that the hotel failed to take adequate measures to prevent trafficking or failed to report suspected trafficking to the authorities. In some cases, hotels may also be liable for damages related to the harm suffered by trafficking victims, including physical and emotional harm, lost income, and other damages.

In order to prevent human trafficking, hotels are expected to implement comprehensive anti-trafficking policies and procedures, including training their employees to recognize and report signs of trafficking, implementing systems to monitor and report suspicious activities, and cooperating with law enforcement in trafficking investigations. They also should have been aware of the End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) and its Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct and guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, which identified warning signs of human trafficking, including poor physical appearance, constant monitoring, and requests for housekeeping and towels without entry into the room. When hotels fail to take these steps, they should be held liable for their role in allowing trafficking to occur.

But, often, the hotel’s negligence is willful, knowing about sex trafficking and turning a blind eye to it.  A lot of these hotels have complaints in their customer reviews where other hotel guests complain about open prostitution and human trafficking at the hotel.

Who Can Be Sued for Human Trafficking?

Under the new laws, any business or individual can be sued if they financially benefitted from activities that they knew or should have reasonably known to involve human trafficking. This would include businesses that directly and knowingly participated in the exploitation of human trafficking victims for the purpose of financial gain (e.g., brothels, topless bars, massage parlors, pornography websites, adult entertainment companies, etc.).

Defendants can also include businesses that were not directly involved in the exploitation of trafficking victims but looked the other way and received financial benefits from the activities. A classic example of this would be a hotel that fails to report or allows a sex trafficking operation to continue and receive a financial benefit.

How Are Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Settlement Amounts Calculated?

The calculation of settlement amounts in human sex trafficking lawsuits involves various factors, reflecting the complexity and the severe impact of trafficking on victims’ lives. Unlike straightforward personal injury cases, sex trafficking claims encapsulate a range of abuses, including physical, emotional, and psychological harm, making the assessment of damages particularly challenging. Here are some of the primary factors considered in calculating settlement amounts in human trafficking lawsuits:

Pain and Suffering

We start here.  Pain and suffering and punitive damages drive human trafficking settlement payouts. Trafficking survivors endure severe emotional and psychological trauma. Yes, compensation can include out-of-pocket costs for like psychological counseling, therapy, and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues resulting from the victimization. These things are important. But the human suffering is what these lawsuits are really about.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damage drive settlement amounts in human trafficking states that have reasonable parameters for awarding these damages.  So in cases where the perpetrator’s actions were particularly egregious, courts might award punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future. This amount is over and above the compensatory damages and can substantially increase the settlement.

Extent of Physical Injuries

The physical harm suffered by trafficking victims can be extensive, requiring long-term or even lifelong medical treatment. Settlements often account for past and future medical expenses related to injuries sustained during trafficking.

Lost Wages and Impaired Earning Capacity

Victims may be compensated for lost wages during the period they were trafficked and for future loss of earnings or diminished earning capacity due to the physical and psychological impacts of their exploitation.

Contact Miller & Zois About Human Trafficking Lawsuits

Our firm is currently seeking new cases from human trafficking victims. If you were a victim of human trafficking you may be entitled to sue any businesses that financially benefitted from your exploitation. Call our office today for a free consultation to find out if you qualify for a human trafficking lawsuit. Call us at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.

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