Civil Liability for Hotels for Sex Trafficking

An article in Fast Company highlights the new measures which hotels are taking to stop sex trafficking.

Modern-day slavery is far more pervasive than you’d think. Some estimates project that 24.9 million people worldwide are victims of labor and sex trafficking, according to the International Labour Organization.

These efforts are also a response to new set of law suits targeting the hotels for their negligence.

A 14-year-old victim of trafficking filed a suit earlier this year against the Roosevelt Inn in Philadelphia for allegedly turning a blind eye while she was sex trafficked. That set off a chain of other suits: In Houston this spring, a mother sued the Plainfield Inn, alleging the motel knew her 21-year-old daughter had been trafficked there for two years before showing up dead in a ditch less than 10 miles away. And there are four more lawsuits by victims who are accusing America’s Best Value Inn in Salisbury, Maryland, of knowing that they had been held there against their will and were forced to perform sex acts with men—reviewers on travel websites even complained of the prostitution there.

Businesses can be held liable for premises liability for acts which occur on their premises. Is an establishment turning blind eye to on-site prostitution? The courts have established a duty of care owed by a property owner/landlord to protect persons on the property from foreseeable third party criminal acts. The courts balance the foreseeability of the criminal acts against the burdensomeness, vagueness, and efficacy of the possible security measures. See Castaneda v. Olsher, 132 Cal. App. 4th 627, 33 Cal. Rptr. 3d 827 (4th Dist. 2005), for a sample. Is there evidence that employees of of the hotel had actual or constructive knowledge of prior criminal conduct? Have they suspected prostitution?