Plaintiffs who have filed sex trafficking lawsuits against major hotel chains have asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to centralized their claims before a single U.S. District Court Judge in the Southern District of Ohio.
According to a Memorandum filed with the JPML on December 9th, multiple hotel sex trafficking lawsuits are currently pending in various federal courts around the United States. All of the complaints were brought in accordance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), as well as similar state statutes and common law, and accuse the defendants of ignoring signs of sex trafficking on their properties and turning a blind-eye to plaintiffs’ victimization.
“Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants violated the TVPRA by renting rooms to individuals it knew, or should have known, were engaged in sex trafficking,” the Petition states. “Furthermore, Defendants intentionally or negligently engaged in acts and omissions that supported, facilitated, harbored, and otherwise furthered the trafficker’s sale and victimization of the Plaintiffs for commercial sexual exploitation.”
Sex trafficking is a widespread and growing problem. In fact, the Polaris Project’s National Human Trafficking Hotline has handled 51,919 calls, for a total 23,078 victims identified, since 2007.
“The amount of sex trafficking occurring within the hotel industry is truly astounding,” plaintiffs maintain. “Attorneys for the hotel industry estimate that eight out of 10 arrests for human trafficking occur in or around hotels. In 2014, 92 percent of the calls the hotline received involved reports of sex trafficking taking place at hotels.”
Hotels have also accounted for 90% of sex trafficking involving children, according to the Petition.
“For the past decade, brand hotels could have easily taken a united stand to stop sex trafficking at their properties, as the hotel industry is dominated by a small number of corporations, with the top 6 companies owning over 90 percent of hotel properties,” plaintiffs continue. “Human traffickers have capitalized on the hospitality industry’s refusal to adopt and implement industry-wide standards and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, training hotel staff on how to identify obvious and well-known signs of sex trafficking.”
The petition points out that many of the currently pending hotel sex trafficking lawsuits name the same defendants and asserts that many more claims will be filed against those defendants in the near future. As such, centralization before a single judge will “achieve judicial efficiencies and is necessary to avoid inconsistent rulings regarding the Defendants noncompliance with their mandatory, federally imposed duties.”
In proposing the Southern District of Ohio as an appropriate venue for the hotel sex trafficking litigation, plaintiffs note that Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley is presiding over the most cases and has “expended considerable time and judicial resources to advance human trafficking matters.”