Three National Hotel Chains Sued by Victims of Human Trafficking

Three human trafficking victims recently filed similar lawsuits in federal court against national hotel chains, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Inc. d/b/a La Quinta Inn and Suites (“Wyndham”), Choice Hotels International, Inc. d/b/a Comfort Inn (“Choice Hotels”), and Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. d/b/a DoubleTree by Hilton (“Hilton”), for human trafficking that occurred at their local Houston franchises. In each suit, the plaintiffs accuse the hotel brands of gross negligence under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 98, for failing to stop or prevent the ongoing sexual abuse of the plaintiffs, after observing readily apparent signs of human trafficking on the premises. According to one of the lawsuits, the signs observed and ignored by hotel staff included excessive male foot traffic outside hotel rooms, customers paying for rooms with cash or prepaid cards, minors paying for hotel rooms, high volume of used condoms left in the room, and declining room service for extended periods of time.

The lawsuits further allege the hotels functioned as a “perpetrator” under the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and “benefitted, by receiving financial and other compensation, through its participation in a venture involving the trafficking, harboring, and maintenance of human trafficking victims in exchange for financial benefits, including the sex trafficking of children, in violation of federal statutes. The plaintiffs in each suit are seeking compensation for personal injuries and economic damages they sustained as a result of the acts and omissions of the defendant hotels.

Trafficking activity in Texas, and Houston specifically, is a major concern for authorities statewide. According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, there are 79,000 victims of youth and minor sex trafficking in Texas at any given time. The Texas legislature continues to develop aggressive regulations to hold building owners and landlords responsible for trafficking activity that occurs on-site. During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers proposed Texas Senate Bill 498, which would hold building owners and landlords liable for failing to stop trafficking activity on their premises. While the bill didn’t pass before the legislative session ended, advocates plan to push for its passage again in the upcoming session.

The attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner have been fighting for the rights of people injured by the negligence of others for decades. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of the negligent acts or omissions of employees, managers, or owners of a hotel, contact the experienced attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner at (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.