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Pennsylvania Court Suggests the Trafficker in Lawsuits Is Subject to Contribution and Common Law Indemnity from Hotels (PA)

July 10, 2020

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The Eastern District of Pennsylvania, interpreting Section 1595 (Federal Human Trafficking Statute), which is similar in statutory construction and scienter requirements to the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Act, suggested this week that the direct person allegedly responsible for the trafficking, i.e., the pimp, would likely be subject to contribution or common law indemnity claims from hotels where the alleged sex acts occurred.
<p style="text-align: justify;">In this instant matter, the hotel chain sought to join the franchisors of the hotel as well as the individual allegedly responsible for the trafficking. This joinder was opposed by the plaintiff, whom argued that the joinder would eliminate her anonymity from the trafficking as well as place in her potential harm’s way. The hotel chain argued that the plaintiff’s cause of action was premised on actual or constructive knowledge of the trafficking, as well as alleged assistance during the check-in process. The Court largely agreed with the hotel chain, stating:</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">"[Hotel chain] recites the traffickers’ alleged activity, including forcing [victim] to have sex for money with various buyers at the [hotels] after the traffickers assisted [the victim] to check-in at the hotels. These claims would support a section 1595 claim against the sex traffickers. While [victim] did not elect to sue her traffickers for understandable safety and personal security reasons, her injuries if proven will all stem from the sex trafficking venture. [The hotel chain], its franchisees, and the sex traffickers each share alleged involvement or neglect in carrying out or enabling the venture causing harm to [the victim]."</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Civil human trafficking cases have been increasing in frequency against hotels in recent years, alleging insufficient security measures and a “head in the sand” approach to human trafficking. This decision certainly allows litigators defending these claims to offset some liability by way of contribution and common law indemnification to the truly guilty party – the trafficker.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Matt Care for his contribution to this post. If you have any questions or comments, please contact <a href="mailto:chayes@wcmlaw.com">Colleen Hayes</a>.</p>

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