October 24, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Florida Hotels Sued Over Human Trafficking On Premises

Hotels Sued Over Human Trafficking On Premises

Communities and lives are regularly harmed by the continued horrors of human trafficking that plague cities throughout the United States. This illegal enterprise that makes a profit off of the suffering of human beings has long permeated beyond the fringes of our communities. 

Hotels are regular sites favored by human traffickers and sex traffickers for their illegal activities. This has raised questions leading to legal action regarding the profit from and contribution towards assisting or ignoring 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. 

Hotels are expected to offer guests a high degree of privacy and are not expected to know every detail of their guest's activities. However, the extent of reported human trafficking activity by survivors and investigators paints a picture of negligence. These businesses disregard human rights violations, which leaves them liable for the suffering and damages of sexual exploitation victims. 

Human Trafficking and Sexual Abuse Nationwide

Slavery is still a modern problem for 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. Major economies like tourism and agriculture can feed the issue of human trafficking. Tourism creates an environment where human traffickers can offer their captives to the many travelers who come to our state. 

The agriculture industry 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 is at Risk for Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, where people are dehumanized and treated as property. People who are trafficked with the intent of sexual exploitation are often physically abused and, in many cases, killed by their captors for profit. Most people that are trafficked are children and females

However, human trafficking can involve any gender, age, sexuality, race, or nationality. United States citizens and people trafficked across the country's borders can be victims of human and labor trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

Trafficking survivors are helping us to learn more and more about how they were recruited and the lax security measures taken by motels and hotels. Knowledge is a tool that offers trafficking victims protection from violations of their basic human rights.

Hotels, Motels, and Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking can occur anywhere, but some places are more common than others. 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 on the wrong side of town harboring a number of suspicious activities. The reality is that human traffickers utilize 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 terrible sex trafficking operations right under the noses of hotel guests. Recognizable chains such as La Quinta, Comfort Inn, and Hilton have been the sites of many human trafficking operations. Law enforcement crackdowns and testimonies from sex trafficking survivors have brought the negligent acts of these businesses to the attention of authorities.

Lawsuits Against Hotels Over Sex Trafficking

Many people manage to escape and survive captivity at the hands of human traffickers. They have assisted authorities in tracking down and apprehending these criminals. After going through the terrible sex trafficking conditions of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and the threat of death, survivors have to face a number of sexual abuse 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, they must file a civil lawsuit to seek financial justice against corporations complicit in human and sex trafficking.

How a Lawsuit Against a Hotel Over Sex Trafficking Works

Those who 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. This led to his arrest and a lawsuit in 2015 against the motel where she was trafficked.

Federal Lawsuit Protects Survivors of Sex Traffickers

A federal law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) penalizes parties who 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. Rather, the motel failed to be aware and act 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, thousands of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and forced labor survivors have filed lawsuits against the 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 by trafficking survivors.

Hilton, Intercontinental, and Best Western Accused of Profiting from Sex Trafficking

The major hotel brands Hilton, Intercontinental, and Best Western have been accused of allowing and profiting from sex trafficking in numerous locations across the United States. In 2019, thirteen women made accusations against these hotel chains for ignoring signs of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation on their properties.

Lawyers representing these young women exploited by sex traffickers claim the hotels “derived profits and benefitted financially” by allowing sex trafficking on their properties. One of the women who filed a sex trafficking lawsuit was held captive at multiple Wyndham Hotel locations for six weeks in 2012. She received physical abuse that resulted in breaking her nose twice, permanent lip scarring, and a facial infection.

Statements from Best Western, Hilton, and Intercontinental have condemned the practice of human trafficking. However, plaintiffs and their lawyers still allege that, “these hotels knowingly put their own profits over the protection of the children, teenagers and young women who were being sold for sex at their hotels.”

Over 40 Human Trafficking Lawsuits Filed in April 2023

Hotel chains, including Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Red Roof Inns, and Choice Hotels International, were named as defendants in over 40 recent human trafficking lawsuits. Plaintiffs allege these hotel chains allowed for and profited from human trafficking on their premises.

Steve Babin, the lawyer representing these plaintiffs, began helping sex trafficking clients against these hotels in 2019. His clients, “have horror stories where people were handcuffed to toilets and hotel staff comes in and nobody does anything about it.” The first of these sex trafficking trials will go to court in early 2024.

Signs of Human Trafficking Hotels And Motels Must Pay Attention To

These lawsuits 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 the totality of the circumstances and whether it was readily apparent that sex traffickers or human traffickers were freely operating at the motel or hotel. 

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 I.D. or belongings at odd hours, such as children checked in during a school night
  • Guests who may be disheveled, tired, inappropriately dressed, malnourished, scared, nervous, confused, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Dominant figures that will speak on other’s behalf and constantly monitor them with a possible noticeable age difference or no clear relationship between them
  • Housekeeping noticing large amounts of condoms in the trash, sex paraphernalia, alcohol, drugs, or cash
  • 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 they have not trained 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.

Our hotel human trafficking lawyers will learn the existing safety protocols 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 short proximity and even adjacent to commercial sex-related businesses, such as strip clubs and illicit massage parlors.

Social Media Is Used as a Tool by Sex Traffickers

The origin of most sex trafficking cases is social media. It is utilized by traffickers to seek fresh victims and lure individuals under false pretenses. Traffickers will solicit young women via their social media profiles and make promises of a better life and much higher wages. 

Such promises soon become lies as the individual becomes a victim of sexual exploitation. Traffickers are known to restrict the victims' social media access in an effort to cut them off from the outside world.

Damages in a Human Trafficking Lawsuit

Human trafficking victims can experience damages that affect their health, emotional well-being, and ability to earn a living wage. Filing a human trafficking lawsuit can allow a survivor to pursue compensation for the economic and non-economic losses incurred by this traumatic ordeal.

Economic damages, also known as special damages, are those with a specific financial value that can be calculated through a bill or with the help of an economist. Non-economic damages are intangible losses related to the negative effects on a survivor’s quality of life and mental health. A human trafficking lawyer can use certain calculation formulas to determine the emotional cost of your human trafficking incident.

The following are some human trafficking damages you could pursue in a lawsuit:

Sexual Trafficking Lawsuit Attorneys at Dolman Law Group

If you or a loved one are a survivor of sex trafficking and believe a hotel or motel is liable for the damages you suffered because of negligent actions, 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. The number of lawsuits increases each year, and there are presently over 1,000 trafficking cases and commercial sexual exploitation actions at the Federal and State level. Trafficking victims take up all races, sexes, and ages. 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. We ensure our clients not only get compensation for the damages they unjustly suffered but also have their cases handled by attorneys who are invested in its success. We provide experienced legal representation with the resources one would expect from a large law firm. 

Dolman Law Group ensures your case is handled in a sensitive and professional manner by attorneys who will remain in contact with you every step of the way. Our investment in your case is reflected in our awareness initiatives regarding human trafficking, forced labor, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking on social media. 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


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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