How Do Human Trafficking Lawsuits Work?

January 29, 2021 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
How Do Human Trafficking Lawsuits Work?

Understanding Lawsuits Against Businesses Over Human Trafficking

Filing a lawsuit in the United State is something many people can see as a reactionary move intended to give certain liable parties a legal headache because they slighted a plaintiff in some way. In other cases, a lawsuit may be viewed as an underhanded cash grab utilizing split legal hairs and convoluted legalese.  The reality for most people is that a lawsuit is one of the few ways that they can hold a party accountable for their actions and seek desperately needed compensation that can mean the difference between stabilizing or living in financial ruin. This is especially true for those who look to civil lawsuits for help after surviving their ordeal in human trafficking

Human Trafficking Prosecution Vs. Human Trafficking Lawsuits

Human trafficking is a well-known crime that results in the misery of millions of people across the country. According to the Department of Justice, human trafficking is defined as a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts. Human trafficking is prosecuted heavily by the justice system and imposes severe sentences due to the particularly cruel nature of the crime.  This is an essential part of combatting human trafficking but when it comes to the survivors of these crimes it does not offer much to human trafficking survivors in the way of restitution. Knowing that their human trafficker is behind bars can help assuage fears of reprisal and give survivors a sense of closure knowing that justice is done but there is still the issue of picking up the pieces and returning to a life of freedom. This comes with a whole host of challenges made worse by the numerous damages a human trafficking survivor can suffer as a result of their captivity. 

Civil Lawsuits and Human Trafficking

Civil law provides human trafficking survivors the ability to take legal action against those that helped to cause their trafficking either through negligence or because they were complicit. A civil lawsuit against the human traffickers themselves is sometimes an option but in most cases, it just isn't viable since they will likely be sentenced to serve time in prison and have no means to provide financial restitution.  On the other hand, there may be third parties with liability for the damages suffered by human trafficking survivors. Human trafficking will often take place on the property belonging to a business or individual whose negligence allowed the crime to continue. Either the liable party failed to act or acted in a way that led to human traffickers being able to continue harming someone. 

The Basis For Human Trafficking Lawsuits

In an effort to crackdown on human trafficking. The government introduced the Trafficking Victim Protection Act of 2000 which gave survivors of human trafficking the ability to file civil lawsuits against parties that profited off of their trafficking.  Lawsuits like this first began in 2011 and began with a lawsuit against a hotel where a human trafficking survivor named Lisa Richio was trafficked. Richio won her lawsuit against the hotel after proving that despite seeing clear signs that she was being trafficked, the hotel did not take reasonable action to stop her captor which made them negligent. They profited off of her trafficking via the room they sold to her trafficker which made them liable for the damages that she suffered. Richio settled her lawsuit for an undisclosed amount and a flood of additional lawsuits from other human trafficking survivors followed.

Negligence and Human Trafficking Liability 

Just because there is human trafficking that occurs on a business's property it does not mean that said business can have a lawsuit filed against them. When filing a human trafficking lawsuit, a plaintiff needs to be able to prove that the owners or operators of the property acted in a negligent way that enabled or caused their trafficking and sustaining of damages a lawsuit is seeking compensation for. For example, a hotel can have human trafficking occur in a hotel room but if there are no red flags that they can act on then they can't really be blamed for something they didn't have power over. A business cannot always be omniscient as to what occurs on their premises but they do need to take reasonable care and act when they do see a red flag. It is also important to note that businesses in the hospitality industry are usually required to have employees trained to recognize red flags that signal human trafficking may be occurring. Failing to do this can be considered negligent as well.

Who Can Be Sued For Human Trafficking?

The lawsuit filed by Richio involved a hotel that was the site of sex trafficking which is a very common type of human trafficking seen in the hospitality industry. Hotels like the one in that lawsuit are commonly the defendants of human trafficking lawsuits but there is more to human trafficking than this. Many types of businesses can be involved in human trafficking from agriculture to the food industry. Businesses can have human trafficking directly supply laborers coerced or forced to work for free or they may have their property used for human trafficking while they look the other way. Transportation businesses may also be considered liable for the trafficking that utilizes their services when obvious red flags are ignored. The following are some common businesses that may be liable for human trafficking that occurs on their premises. 
  • Hotels/Motels
  • Farms/Agriculture companies
  • Massage businesses
  • Casinos
  • Nightclubs
  • Airlines
  • Bus Companies
  • Train Companies
  • Restaurants
  • Truck stops
  • Theme parks
  • Cruise ships   
  • Resorts
  • Apartment complexes

Filing a Human Trafficking Lawsuit

Human trafficking lawsuits are often something human trafficking survivors desperately need to get on their feet but they are seldom fast affairs. When someone files any lawsuit they need to be prepared for their case to take as long as several years to be resolved.  Defendants can fight a case tooth and nail every step of the way or be open to negotiating a settlement out of court. In the latter's case, both parties can avoid the lengthy and costly prospect of a trial which often is within the interest of both parties. Many cases do either get settled out of court or in the mediation phase of a trial but sometimes it can come down to a long bitter legal battle in court which is why hiring an experienced human trafficking lawyer is highly recommended. 

Florida Human Trafficking Lawsuit Attorneys

If you or a loved one are a survivor of human 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 has been serving the people of Florida case by case for years and ensuring that 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 provides experienced legal representation with the resources one would expect from a large 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 (866) 826-1298 or fill out a contact form online Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (866) 826-1298  


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 successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic 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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