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February 14, 2020

Human trafficking claims too unique to consolidate, JPML rules

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation declined on February 5 to establish a multidistrict litigation (MDL) of consolidated claims for sex trafficking victims against various hotel chains.

Some plaintiffs seeking to hold the hotel industry accountable for allegedly enabling traffickers by allowing commercial sex trafficking to occur on their properties filed the proposed MDL, which consisted of 21 cases pending in 12 districts. The businesses knew or should have known of the victimization, plaintiffs alleged, but the hotels stayed silent while financially benefitting from rooms rented by traffickers, allegedly in violation of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

The JPML stated it “recognized the seriousness” of the accusations, but it didn’t believe centralizing the cases would “serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses or further the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.” The JPML reached their conclusion in part because the majority of the cases involved varying details that were central to each case, including different hotel franchises, owners and employees, geographic locations, witnesses, and time periods that trafficking was alleged to have occurred, according to the ruling.

“Often the goal of seeking an MDL is to help parties share information about similar cases so that the litigation may proceed more efficiently,” said Motley Rice sex trafficking lawyer Carmen Scott. “With the proposal the JPML received, the cases had several varying defendants, witnesses, time periods and other factors that led the panel to determine it is best for victims of sex trafficking to pursue their own claims. I’m proud to help victims of sex trafficking file individual suits against corporations that allowed sex trafficking on their premises. Through these cases, we can help enact reforms that help businesses and their employees meet their obligation to identify and report trafficking when they see signs, and impose stricter enforcement actions for gaps in corporate responsibly to help stop this horrific form of modern slavery from occurring on their watch.”

Human trafficking defendants

Defendant hotel franchises and companies named in the proposed MDL included: Best Western International, Inc.; Choice Hotels International, Inc., sued as Choice Hotels Corporation, Comfort Inn, and Econo Lodges of America, Inc.; Extended Stay America, Inc., ESA Management, LLC, ESA P Portfolio, LLC, and ESA P Portfolio Operating Lessee; Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Hilton Domestic Operating Company Inc., Hilton Franchise Holding LLC, and Hilton Management LLC; Hyatt Corporation and Hyatt House Franchising, LLC; Marriott International, Hyatt, Inter-Continental, Marriott, and Wyndham.

Motley Rice is investigating and represents people in trafficking cases. Our attorneys understand the sensitive nature of human trafficking and sexual abuse cases, and represented and secured a confidential settlement for victims of childhood sexual abuse at Pinewood Preparatory School, in Summerville, S.C. Learn more about Motley Rice’s experience in human trafficking and sexual abuse cases.  

For more information, you may also contact attorneys Carmen Scott and Jodi Westbrook Flowers by email, or call 1.800.768.4026.