Three sex trafficking victims have sued three major hotel chains in parallel lawsuits, claiming that the companies exercised gross negligence about on-site prostitution at Houston branches despite corporate policies that promote social responsibility.
The lawsuits, filed by advocates in December, contend that Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc., Choice Hotels International, Inc., and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Inc. have not done enough to prevent sex trafficking at their franchises.
The three women were identified by police as trafficking victims at Houston hotels owned by these chains, lawyers said. Two were teenagers at the time; one was an adult.
“Traffickers have long capitalized on the hotel industry’s refusal to adopt companywide anti-trafficking policies, refusal to train staff on what to look for and how to respond, and failure to establish a safe and secure reporting mechanism, and they have exploited the seclusion and privacy of hotel rooms,” the lawsuits said.
Annie McAdams, a plaintiffs’ lawyer involved in the team effort, has built a reputation around tackling such cases, suing Facebook, Backpage, Salesforce and truck stops for their roles in promoting sex trafficking.
The recent cases accuse the companies of negligence and violations of federal and state laws that prohibit trafficking.
“What’s notable about these cases is it’s the first effort targeted at the parent hotels. The parent companies in state court have thrown up their hands and said we’re not responsible for anything that happens at these hotel locations,” said McAdams, whose firm is partnering with others on the cases. “But they make money on branding, licensing, advertising and franchise fees.”
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