Motel 6 And Affiliated Companies Named In 5 Sex Trafficking Cases. Victim Claims Employees Knew
Motel 6 is again under fire for allegedly failing to prevent or stop sex trafficking at its hotels.
A Houston-based civil attorney representing sex trafficking victims in major litigation against hotel chains filed five new lawsuits over the past month against Motel 6, its affiliated entities and its parent company, Carrollton, Texas-based G6 Hospitality.
In four Dallas County lawsuits and one Harris County lawsuit, five trafficked females claim they were held captive and sold at various Motel 6 locations in the U.S. as employees either ignored or missed the warning signs of trafficking.
In one case, a victim claims a Houston-area Motel 6 employee participated in her exploitation.
The defendants, which also include several Motel 6 franchisees, are accused of negligence, gross negligence and civil statute violations that prohibit a person or business from knowingly profiting or benefiting financially from sex trafficking.
One of the lawsuits claims a “Jane Doe” plaintiff — someone filing without disclosing her name — trafficked at a Motel 6 in Spring, Texas, suffered continuous abuse inside the motel. The victim claims her trafficker received a discount for the room from a hotel employee in exchange for sex with the victim.
In addition, the Spring Jane Doe plaintiff said the hotel issued her traffickers a room with more discrete access and allowed her abusers to suspend cleaning services — all of which are known red flags of trafficking on-site.
The remaining four lawsuits filed in Dallas County involve Jane Doe victims allegedly trafficked at Motel 6 locations in Oklahoma, Florida, California and Minnesota.
In response to the litigation, Motel 6 issued a statement to Bisnow, saying the motel operator takes the issue of trafficking seriously.
“We condemn all forms of human trafficking. Trafficking violates basic human rights and represents a global societal issue that multiple stakeholders must partner and work together to eradicate. Motel 6 takes a proactive, zero-tolerance stance on human trafficking. There is nothing more important to us than the safety and well-being of our guests, our employees, and the communities in which we operate," a Motel 6 spokesperson said via email.
The Dallas and Harris county cases were filed by Houston attorney Annie McAdams with McAdams P.C., who previously filed trafficking lawsuits against several other national hotel brands in Houston in 2019.
None of the remaining cases have made it to verdict yet. In addition, a few of the defendants — including Facebook, Salesforce and Backpage — have asked the Texas Supreme Court to step in, saying federal law protects internet firms from liability stemming from activities online.
The Facebook and Salesforce/Backpage defendants also asked the Supreme Court to stay various lawsuits filed by McAdams while a court determines if all of the Jane Doe cases filed against numerous hotels and online platforms should be consolidated within one court to prevent duplication of sex trafficking litigation and conflicting judicial opinions.
The cases are a reminder that hotel operators, owners and hospitality investors are increasingly at risk of becoming defendants in civil cases involving sex trafficking, particularly if they ignore red flag warnings or fail to adequately train employees. Hotels can be held liable for this kind of negligence, even if there isn't egregious behavior like what McAdams' clients allege in the latest batch of lawsuits.
"Disturbingly there are many cases where the employees not only turned a blind eye to what was occurring, the employees at times would take money to allow the conduct to occur and even in some cases there would be manager or staff participation in the rape of the trafficking victims," McAdams told Bisnow in a statement.
"This goes to the culture of what Motel 6 stands for. Turning a blind eye to what was happening when they could endlessly benefit from it and then feigning care and concern where their bottom line is at risk. If it really mattered to G6, changes would have occurred long ago. The evidence shows blatant disregard for trafficking."
G6 Hospitality has in the past promoted its anti-trafficking efforts along with its policies and prevention efforts. In July 2019, Motel 6 signed ECPAT's Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, a set of shared principles and training standards that businesses sign onto to stomp out trafficking.
Organizations like ECPAT USA and Polaris educate and train lodging industry operators and employees on what to look for and what policies to implement to stave off traffickers and their illicit activities.
In January 2020, Motel 6 also joined forces with Truckers Against Trafficking and North Texas-based New Friends New Life — an advocacy group supporting trafficking victims — to publicize the problem. The organizations together aim to offer trafficking victims education, job support and financial assistance.
While the nuances of trafficking inside hotels can create challenges for businesses, especially given the frequency and number of guests leaving and entering the premises, McAdams believes adherence to hotel anti-trafficking guidelines would have prevented the crimes alleged by her clients.
"I know that if standard human trafficking industry protocols and procedures were in place, these cases 100% could have been prevented," McAdams said. "Time and time again we see cases where if Motel 6/Studio 6/G6’s own purported policies and procedures were actually enforced, this crisis would not exist."