About 25 defense attorneys have appeared in federal court to represent dozens of hotels, including Marriott and Hilton, in lawsuits alleging they rented rooms to sex traffickers at locations nationwide.
So far, lawyers have filed 25 lawsuits in federal courts on behalf of anonymous victims against various hotel chains, asserting violations of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The suits, all filed this year, are a growing area for the plaintiffs’ bar.
In a Dec. 9 motion, three plaintiffs’ firms—Weitz & Luxenberg, Andrus Wagstaff and Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Rafferty & Proctor—sought an order from the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferring all the sex trafficking cases to the Southern District of Ohio, where U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley of the Southern District of Ohio has refused to dismiss some of the cases. They claim to represent about 1,500 sex trafficking victims.
“Today, sex slavery is pervasive in the United States, and hotels are the primary venue,” the firms’ lawyers wrote. “These corporations control every major aspect of the hotels that bear their name and those running these corporations have been fully aware of the sick and pervasive sex trafficking in their hotels.”
In the past week, defense attorneys, including those from DLA Piper and Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, have made appearances before the MDL panel, which is set to hear arguments Jan. 30 in Tampa, Florida. Their responses are due Thursday. One hotel, Ambach Corp., doing business as Marshfield Inn, has opposed the transfer motion in a Dec. 31 filing by its attorney, Thomas Farrey, managing director at Burns & Farrey in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Here’s who else is representing the hotels before the MDL panel:
David Sager, a partner in Short Hills, New Jersey, appeared for CorePoint Lodging Inc., CPLG HOL LLC, CPLG Properties LLC, La Quinta Worldwide, Microtel Inns and Suites Franchising Inc., Ramada Worldwide Inc., LQ Management LLC, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts LLC and Wyndham Franchisor LLC.
Angela Agrusa, a partner in Los Angeles, appeared for G6 Hospitality LLC.
Michael O’Day, a partner in Baltimore, appeared for Marriott International Inc.
Latham & Watkins
Perry Viscounty, a partner in Costa Mesa, California, appeared for craigslist Inc.
Holland & Knight
John Hamrick, a partner in Atlanta, appeared for Inter-Continental Hotels Corp.
Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith
Michael Freed, a partner in Atlanta, and Christian Novay, a Chicago partner, appeared for Red Roof Inns Inc., FMW RRI NC LLC, Westmont Hospitality Group, WHG SU Atlanta LP, SUB-SU Hotel GP LLC and RRI III LLC.
Courtney Longo and Kenneth Walton, both Boston partners, appeared for R-Roof Assets LLC dba Red Roof Plus + Boston-Framingham.
Nicole Perry, a partner in Houston, appeared for Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.
Constantine Passodelis in Pittsburgh appeared for Best Western International Inc.
Fisher & Phillips
Mathew Parker, a partner in Columbus, Ohio, appeared for Krrish Lodging LLC.
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
Sara Turner, a shareholder in Birmingham, Alabama, appeared for Choice Hotels International Inc.
Lindsey Mann, a partner in Atlanta, appeared for 2014 SE Owner 5-Emory LLC along with William Martin, of counsel at Atlanta’s Drew Eckl & Farnham.
Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial
Christopher Byrd, an Atlanta partner, appeared for Extended Stay America.
Isaac Wiles Burkholder & Teetor
Matthew Teetor, a partner in Columbus appeared for Shahil LLC.
Fishel Downey Albrecht & Riepenhoff
Paul Bernhart, in New Albany, Ohio, appeared for Buckeye Hospitality Inc.
Bricker & Eckler
Ali Haque, a partner in Columbus appeared for Columbus Hospitality LLC dba as Crowne Plaza Columbus–Downtown, an IHG Hotel.
Steven Strang, a partner in Columbus appeared for First Hotel Management LLC.
Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder
Douglas Holthus, a partner in Columbus appeared for S&S Airport Motel LLC dba Days Inn Columbus Airport.
Hawkins Parnell & Young
Kathryn Whitlock, a partner in Atlanta, appeared for Jeet & JJ LLC.
Shane Keith, also an Atlanta partner, appeared for Varahi Hotel LLC.
Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet
Glenn Tornillo, a partner in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, appeared for Kuzzins Buford LLC.
Wilson Smith Cochran Dickerson
Gary Western, in Seattle, appeared for 2005 Investors LC.
Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers
Pamela Lee, a partner in Atlanta, appeared for Auro Hotels Management, JKHM Hotels Management Inc. and Laxmi Druid Hills Hotel LLC.
Joseph L. Piccin Co.
Joseph Piccin, in Columbus appeared for Northland Hotel Inc.