A plaintiff need only allege that a hotel (a) rented a room to traffickers and (b) knew or had reason to know the plaintiff was being trafficked in order to state a viable cause of action under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, per a recent ruling from the Northern District of Georgia.
In D.H. v. Tucker Inn, Inc., 2023 WL 6538391, -- F.Supp. 3d – (N.D. Ga. Sept. 1, 2023), the court held that a trafficking plaintiff stated a viable claim against a hotel under the TVPRA by alleging the above elements. Most notably, the plaintiff alleged: she was trafficked by an unidentified individual for “several days” at the hotel; she was a minor when the trafficking occurred; the defendant’s employees “regularly interacted” with her; one hotel employee asked her if she was okay; her trafficker had daily interactions with the front desk clerk; the defendant should have recognized several “signs of sex trafficking,” such as the plaintiff’s age and inappropriate appearance; and numerous online reviews and police reports should have put the defendant on notice of sex trafficking.
The defendant had moved to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff failed to factually support a TVPRA claim, which requires that plaintiff show the defendant “(1) knowingly benefited, (2) from taking part in a common undertaking or enterprise involving risk and potential profit, (3) that undertaking or enterprise violated the TVPRA as to the plaintiff, and (4) the defendant had constructive or actual knowledge that the undertaking or enterprise violated the TVPRA as to the plaintiff.” The defendant argued the plaintiff’s allegations were merely conclusory assertions that did not establish the hotel benefitted from, or participated in, a trafficking venture. But the District Court rejected the defendant’s arguments, finding the plaintiff’s allegations sufficient to establish a TVPRA claim because she asserted the hotel rented rooms to her trafficker and alleged particular facts showing why the hotel should have been on notice of sex trafficking and failed to prevent it.
In light of the proliferation of trafficking litigation over the last several years, liability insurers writing policies in Georgia in the hospitality space must be aware that a low bar has been set for a trafficking plaintiff to plead a viable claim for relief and at least get to discovery. Insurers should retain experienced counsel to assess complaints raising TVPRA claims and the response thereto. If you would like to speak to an attorney about a trafficking claim, coverage issues related thereto, or another matter, please contact Seslee Smith, Ryan Burke, or Nathan Miles.