Florida Hotels Sued Over Human Trafficking On Premises

January 21, 2021 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Florida Hotels Sued Over Human Trafficking On Premises

Human Trafficking Lawsuits Against Liable Florida Hotels

Florida communities and lives are regularly harmed by the continued horrors of human trafficking that continue to plague cities throughout the United States. This illegal enterprise that makes profits off of the suffering of human beings has long permeated beyond the fringes of our communities. Hotels are regularly found to be sites favored by human traffickers and sex traffickers for their illegal activities. This has raised questions and led to legal action regarding the profiting from and contribution towards assisting or turning a blind eye to sex traffickers.

Seeking Justice For Victims of Human Trafficking

Survivors of human trafficking have the right to ensure that those whose negligence aided their captors and contributed to their suffering are held accountable for their actions via lawsuits. Hotels are one of the most common sites of human trafficking where individuals kept in captivity are forced into sexual slavery for the profit of their captors. While hotels are expected to offer guests a high degree of privacy and are not held to a standard of knowing every single detail of their guest's activities. Yet, the extent of reported human trafficking activity by survivors and investigators, paints a picture of negligence that ensured these businesses are liable for the suffering and damages of sexual exploitation victims. They have simply turned a blind eye to obvious human rights violations.

Human Trafficking and Sexual Abuse in Florida and Nationwide

Slavery is still a modern problem that hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims each year in the United States. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “severe forms of human trafficking” as: The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for

  • Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; 
  • Labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery

This law is focused on victims protection and human rights.

Florida is in a unique position where two of its major economies inadvertently feed the issue of human trafficking. Tourism creates an environment where human traffickers can offer their captives to the many travelers that come to our state. Florida agriculture has a demand for cheap and plentiful labor that traffickers can supply. Many of the folks willing to work for unconscionably low wages often fall victim to forced labor and other human rights violations.

Who Can be Trafficked?

Make no mistake, human trafficking is modern-day slavery where people are dehumanized and treated as property. Sexual exploitation victims of trafficking are often physically abused, and in many cases killed by their captors for profit. More than a fifth of human trafficking victims in the state of Florida are children and the majority of all people who are trafficked are female. However, human trafficking can involve any gender, age, sexuality, race, or nationality. United States citizens as well as people trafficked across the country's borders can be victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Labor trafficking is a huge issue Trafficking survivors are allowing us to learn more and more about how they were recruited and the lax security measures taken by motels/hotels. Knowledge is a weapon and tool that offers trafficking victims protection from violations of their basic human rights.

[Read: Common Industries Targeted by Human Traffickers]

Hotels, Motels, and Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking can take place anywhere but some places are more common than other. Sex trafficking commonly occurs at private residences, business fronts, and brothels; but no setting is utilized for this crime more than hotels and motels. These sites provide remote, discreet, and convenient means for sex trafficking. When someone thinks of sex trafficking at a hotel they no doubt imagine a run down and ramshackle business in the wrong side of town obviously harboring a number of suspicious activities. 

The reality is that sex trafficking and human trafficking, in general, utilizes hotels and motels of all kinds ranging from expensive suites to the common motel frequented by the average traveler. Major hotel and motel chains are often the sites of truly terrible sex trafficking operations right under the noses of many a hotel guest. Recognizable chains such as La Quinta, Comfort Inn, and Hilton have been the sites of many human trafficking operations. Law enforcement crackdowns, as well as testimony, from a number of sex trafficking survivors, have brought the negligent acts of these businesses to the attention of authorities.

Lawsuits Against Hotels Over Sex Trafficking

There are many people who manage to escape and survive captivity at the hands of human traffickers and manage to assist authorities in tracking down and apprehending these criminals. After going through the terrible conditions of sex trafficking where physical, sexual, psychological abuse, and even the threat of death is the norm, survivors have to face a number of severe damages. Criminal prosecution of traffickers puts them behind bars but does not offer any compensation for the damages a person may face due to human trafficking. Therefore, it falls to civil law to try and attain compensation.

Lawsuits Against Motels Seeking Justice For Sex Trafficking Victims

There are many individuals who manage to escape and survive captivity and forced labor at the hands of human traffickers. In turn, trafficking survivors often assist authorities in tracking down and apprehending these criminals. After going through the terrible conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking where physical, sexual, psychological abuse, and even the threat of death is the norm, survivors have to face a number of severe damages

Criminal prosecution of traffickers puts them behind bars but does not offer any compensation for the damages a person may face due to human trafficking. Therefore, a civil action via the filing of a lawsuit is the manner we may seek financial justice against corporations that are complicit in human and/or sexual trafficking.

How a Lawsuit Against a Hotel Over Sex Trafficking Works

Those that endured captivity, forced labor and exploitation at the hands of human traffickers may be able to take legal action against the hotels or motels that were the site of the trafficking operation. This type of lawsuit was first filed after a woman named Lisa Richio was forced into sexual slavery in 2011 but managed to escape her captor leading to his arrest and a lawsuit later on in 2015 against the motel where she was trafficked. 

Federal Lawsuit Protects Victims of Sex Traffickers

Thanks to a federal law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA that penalizes parties that enable and are complicit in sex trafficking, Richio claimed that the motel financially benefited from her being sexually trafficked. The basis of their liability was not based solely on the sex trafficking occurring on the premises but rather the motel should have been aware and acted to stop these activities in the presence of clear indications human trafficking was occurring. The suit was settled several years later for an undisclosed amount.

Future National Human Trafficking Lawsuits Against Motels and Hotels

As a result of the lawsuit filed by Richio, many other survivors of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labor (i.e., labor trafficking) have also filed thousands of lawsuits against the many hotels and motels that allegedly aided these crimes through their negligence. In 2019, 125 hotel and motel-related entities were sued in state and federal courts alone.

Signs of Human Trafficking Hotels And Motels Must Pay Attention To

These suits often focus on how hotels may have clear signs of human trafficking occurring on their premises yet fail to take action. Signs of human trafficking are contextual and no single sign is a clear indicator that something is wrong. We are more focused on viewing a totality of the circumstances and whether it was readily apparent that sex traffickers or human traffickers were freely operating at the motel/hotel. However, hotels should notice the following signs and report something may be wrong when more than one is present.
  • Large numbers of non-hotel guests consisting of mostly men frequenting the same room.
  • Women or young children checked in with no id or belongings at odd hours. For example, children checked in during a school night.
  • These guests may be disheveled, tired, inappropriately dressed, malnourished, scared, nervous, confused, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • They likely will be accompanied by a dominant figure that will speak on their behalf and constantly monitor them. There may also be a noticeable age difference or no clear relationship between the two.
  • Housekeeping may notice large amounts of condoms in the trash, sex paraphernalia, alcohol, drugs, or cash in the room.
  • The room in question may forego all housekeeping for the duration of the stay or request unusually large numbers of sheets and towels.
Hotels may also be considered negligent in a lawsuit over sex trafficking if it is discovered that no training has been undertaken by staff to detect these signs and properly report suspicions of sex trafficking, human trafficking or sexual exploitation. Negligence may also be exhibited by a failure to act on reports due to a failure of the reporting system or management. Keep in mind, we will seek to learn the existing safety protocols in place and the training staff members receive in spotting sex traffickers and sexual exploitation victims. Many of these motels (often owned by or under the umbrella of commercial chains) are located within a short proximity and even adjacent to commercial sex related businesses such as strip clubs and illicit massage parlors

Social Media Is Used To Recruit Sex Trafficking Victims

Ironically the origin of most sex trafficking cases is social media. Social media is utilized by traffickers to recruit fresh victims and lure individuals under false pretenses. Oftentimes, traffickers will solicit young women via their social media profiles and make promises of a better life and much higher wages. Such promises soon turn into boldface lies as the individual becomes victim to sexual exploitation. Traffickers are known to then restrict the victims' social media access in an effort to cut them off with the outside world.

Florida Sexual Trafficking Lawsuit Attorneys

If you or a loved one are a survivor of sex trafficking and believe that certain parties are liable for the damages that you suffered during your ordeal because of negligent actions then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group.

Our attorneys are ready to provide a free consultation to hear the details of your case and provide information on what legal options are available to you. Dolman Law Group is a nationally recognized law firm that takes great pride in representing crime victims in their effort to obtain financial justice. Our law firm has the necessary financial resources to take on corporate giants. Please check out our reviews on Google and social media.

Keep in mind that trafficking cases are on the rise. In fact the number of lawsuits increase each year and there are presently over 1000 trafficking cases and commercial sexual exploitation actions at the Federal and State level. Trafficking victims take up take up all races, sexes and even age. At its core, forced labor, human trafficking and sex trafficking are violations of our essential human rights.

A Law Firm Experienced Representing Crime Victims

Dolman Law Group has been seeking justice for those harmed by individual or corporate negligence for years and ensuring our clients not only get compensation for the damages that they unjustly suffered but have their case fought for by attorneys that are invested in its success. Dolman Law Group provides experienced legal representation with the resources one would expect from a large law firm while also ensuring your case is handled in a sensitive and professional manner by attorneys that will remain in contact with you every step of the way.

To set up a consultation with Dolman Law Group you can either call our office at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form online.  We will routinely post about human trafficking, forced labor and sexual trafficking on social media.

Remember the saying, "if you see something, say something." We must all look out for the victims protection. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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