There is good progress being made in regards to holding businesses accountable that profit from human trafficking. In December 2019, the first plaintiff to file against a hotel or motel for its role in a trafficking case settled with the Massachusetts motel where she was held captive. The survivor in this case told media the case was more about accountability because employees at the motel saw her in distress and did not help her.
The most recent rulings came down in April 2020. In the United States District Court Western District of Washington, the magistrate recommended that the Court deny motions filed by Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and the online advertising website, Craigslist, to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a survivor of human trafficking.
The plaintiff in this case is pursuing legal action against the businesses, alleging that Craigslist and Wyndham are liable because her traffickers advertised her on the Craigslist website when she was 12-years-old and she was held at a hotel owned by Wyndham. The court denied Craigslist and Wyndham’s motions to dismiss the case, allowing the suit to stand against the businesses for facilitating trafficking.
Also, in April 2020, a survivor of human trafficking made progress in her case against Marriott for turning a blind eye to the mistreatment and abuse she suffered on a hotel property. In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the court both granted and denied part of the corporation’s motion to dismiss the case.
While the court agreed the plaintiff did not convince them Marriott knew of sex trafficking victimizing her, the court agreed she sufficiently argued “specific facts from which we can reasonably infer Marriott, under an actual agency theory subject to discovery, knowingly benefitted from participating in a venture which it should have known engaged in her trafficking.” This is all Congress requires a victim to plead.
According to the Human Trafficking Institute, there were at least 25 new cases filed nationwide against hotels and motels in 2019 under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act or TVPA. The complaints have been brought against major hotel brands like Hilton, Wyndham, Days Inn, and other brands, which ignored obvious signs of human trafficking on their properties. Instead, the plaintiffs say these hotels chose to pursue profits instead of making uniform policy changes that could have prevented them from being raped, imprisoned, and abused in their hotels.
The Levin Papantonio law firm is part of a team of law firms leading this revolutionary litigation to hold hotels and other businesses accountable for turning a blind eye to these crimes. While headway is being made in these cases, there is still more progress to be made and legal advocates for survivors say that will come with education and continued legal action to hold hotels and other corporations accountable for their role in facilitating human trafficking and profiting off the backs of victims.
If you’d like to learn more about these and human trafficking cases making headlines around the country, you can read the following links: