In March 2017, a victim of sexual trafficking sued the hotel where the illegal activities took place under a 2014 Pennsylvania statute. While there have been suits filed against individuals under this law, the civil suit against the hotel is the first of its kind and it could open the door for victims of sex crimes to receive damages from businesses such as hotels or strip clubs that ignore these problems in their establishments.
The Pennsylvania Law
The state passed a law in 2014 to combat human trafficking and help sex trade victims by allowing them to bring civil cases against companies who knowingly profit from these illegal trades. Hotels profit when they rent hotel rooms, thus forming the basis for the victim in this case to sue a Philadelphia hotel. The victim's lawyers argue that because the hotel management and owner knew or should have known what was occurring in their walls, they are liable for damages.
Potential Legal Impact of the Pennsylvania Law
People reported more than 7,500 human trafficking cases in 2016, with a little over 150 occurring in Pennsylvania. Because almost one third of sex-trafficking cases take place in hotels, the potential number of litigants is significant in both Pennsylvania and in states that have or or considering similar laws. Cases that result in settlements for victims will make hotel owners who previously ignored what was happening in their businesses think twice before turning a blind eye to crime with real victims who suffer real damages.
While there is established case law around liability for the hospitality industry in cases such as slip and falls or failure to provide adequate security, liability for sexual violence would set new precedent, making it easier for victims to get the compensation they deserve. While they might just want it all to go away, victims of sexual violence in a hotel or other hospitality setting should contact an attorney. Beyond medical bills, victims may need treatment for psychological problems caused by their experiences. A reputable attorney can fight on your behalf to make sure that an owner in the hospitality industry learns to put public safety ahead of profits.