West Virginia Lawyer Takes on Hotels that Harbor Sex Trafficking Victims

Firm in Morgantown and Martinsburg assists victims forced into prostitution

In large part, the violence and cruelty associated with sex trafficking occurs at hotels across the United States. While victims, including children, have been exploited on their properties, some hotel owners have ignored the abuse and others have received sexual favors and drugs in exchange for turning a blind eye. Conversely, large hotel chains receive royalty payments when sex traffickers use a franchisee’s room. As survivors try to recover from the horrible mistreatment they endured, they are suing corporations such as Wyndham, Red Roof Inn and Best Western for compensation to address the abuse that occurred at their properties. Mountaineer Injury Law Group in Morgantown and Martinsburg has substantial experience representing clients from West Virginia and other states in large-scale claims involving corporate defendants. Attorney Sean Logue is dedicated to giving victims of sex trafficking the chance to obtain compensation in a lawsuit against businesses that profited from the abuse they endured.

What is sex trafficking?

Federal law prohibits the facilitation of a commercial sex act where the person performing the act is a under 18 years old or where the act was induced by one of the following:

  • Force — This includes kidnapping, sexual assault and confinement within a hotel room. Even if someone originally chose to engage in commercial sex work, beatings used to prevent them from leaving or as punishment can provide a basis for a sex trafficking charge.
  • Fraud — Many women and children are lured into prostitution with false promises of money, shelter, gifts or drugs. Sometimes, predators manipulate victims by pretending to care about them or by claiming that the arrangement is only temporary.
  • Coercion — People might be coerced into performing sexual acts by threats of violence, deportation or social shaming.

Specific prohibited acts include the recruitment, transportation, harboring and solicitation of sex trafficking victims.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act

For more than 20 years, the U.S. government has used a series of laws and executive actions to combat human trafficking. One critical piece of legislation is the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). Originally passed in 2000 as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and reauthorized on several occasions, the TVPRA extends criminal and civil liability to those who knowingly benefit from human trafficking. This can include hotels and other businesses that profit by providing services to individuals involved in sex trafficking. Given the unusual circumstances of rooms that are rented for the provision of commercial sex acts and the fact that so much related illegal activity occurs at hotels, there is often substantial evidence that management has knowledge of what is occurring. The standard is even stricter when minors are being victimized. As long as a hotel operator has had a “reasonable opportunity to observe” sex trafficking victims on their premises, they are in violation of the law.

Litigation against hotels where victims of sex trafficking were exploited

A federal judge has ruled that lawsuits can proceed against hotel chains based on the provisions of the TVPRA. Many claims have already been filed and plaintiffs are requesting that hotel sex trafficking actions nationwide be adjudicated as multidistrict litigation under one judge. There is a common pattern of conduct among numerous defendants in these cases, which favors the granting of an order that would centralize hotel sex trafficking claims.

There are complex legal issues that must be resolved. Most hotels that bear the names of large chains are actually franchised to local owners. So even though illegal activity might be occurring at a hotel with a familiar name, the corporate owners associated with the brand often try to evade legal liability for what happened on the premises. Some chains have also attempted to avoid lawsuits by failing to provide any guidance on security issues so that they can claim that stopping unlawful conduct is purely the franchisee’s responsibility. However, the use of hotels is so pervasive in sex trafficking that there is a formidable argument that major companies such as Choice, Hilton and Marriott should have to pay for their ongoing failure to prevent sexual abuse. 

Coming forward to learn what type of compensation might be available

Even for people who have escaped the horrors of sex trafficking, it can be incredibly difficult to seek justice against the liable parties. Many survivors live in fear of further physical or sexual abuse. In other cases, victims blame themselves for leaving home or agreeing to go with a trafficker when they were at their most vulnerable. If you were forced or coerced into sex work, the TVPRA and other laws exist to provide a measure of justice to you, and taking legal action against the corporate headquarters of the hotel(s) where you were mistreated might be the best opportunity to obtain compensation. The first step is finding an experienced, supportive lawyer who can build the strongest possible case on your behalf.

Contact a lawyer about a claim against a hotel that benefited from sex trafficking

Mountaineer Injury Law Group represents victims of sex trafficking in lawsuits against the franchisors, owners and operators of hotels where illegal activity occurred. For a free consultation regarding your legal options, please call 304-202-5835 or contact me online. I have two West Virginia offices, located in Morgantown and Martinsburg office.

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124 Fayette Street,
Morgantown, West Virginia 26505





126 E Burke Street,
Martinsburg, West Virginia 25401