Scranton, Pa

Arbitrator awards $24.5 million to two women who were sex trafficked as minors at North American Motor Inns

Posted: March 4, 2024

On February 7, 2024, arbitrator, William Ricci, awarded two sex trafficking survivors, $24.5 million. The women, identified as B.H. and C.A., were sex trafficked at North American Motor Inns located at 4444 City Avenue in West Philadelphia. The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2019, stated that in January 2013 the women, who were 16 and 17 at the time, were beaten, threatened and raped at the hotel. The lawsuit says that B.H. was sex trafficked at the hotel for about two weeks and C.A. was sex trafficked at the hotel over the span of a year and on thirty different occasions. The lawsuit was also against Ramara Inc., who was North American Motor Inns former owner at the time. Ramara Inc.’s attorney, Hugh O’Neill of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, argued that Ramara is not liable because they “did not have employees at the hotel and did not maintain a daily presence”, the filing said, and was essentially a “landlord out of possession of the property.”

The complaint alleged that the hotel was aware of a “culture of criminal activity” and ignored it instead of taking steps to make sure it didn’t occur. “What these women went through was horrible. We applaud their bravery in coming forward and vocalizing their experiences,” said attorney Nadeem Bezar, who represented the survivors alongside lawyer Emily Marks, another Kline and Specter attorney.

“These awards are a significant victory in holding hotel owners and operators accountable for the open and obvious criminal activity that is occurring on their properties and will hopefully cause the hotels to act to deter such conduct moving forward”, Marks said.

Both of the women’s traffickers were sentenced. One has since been released and the other is still serving his sentence.

This is another amazing example of the impactful work Kline & Specter does for survivors of sex trafficking. In a previous case in October 2023, Kline & Specter won $37.5 million for three sex trafficking survivors who were also trafficked at North American Motor Inns. There are countless lawsuits that Kline & Specter has filed against hotels and they have obtained a settlement for many sex trafficking survivors. They were also the first to file a civil suit under the Pennsylvania human trafficking statute which permits survivors to sue hotel managers and owners who allow sexual exploitation to occur on their premises.

The CSE Institute notes that hotels and motels are among the most common venues for facilitating and financially benefitting from sex trafficking. These venues provide both easy entry and financial secrecy for sex buyers. The Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act provides means to hold hotels both criminally accountable and civilly liable for sex trafficking.

The CSE Institute urges the hospitality industry to take ownership of this problem and confront it with tangible solutions. These solutions could include mandatory trainings for all management and employees to help them recognize the signs of sex trafficking in hotels and what to do if they suspect trafficking. The CSE Institute also urges the industry to stop turning a blind eye to the commercial sexual exploitation happening within their hotels.  Instead, hotels and motels should become a leading force in stopping this exploitation altogether. The CSE Institute recognizes the need for legislation that would require these types of trainings, policies, and procedures to be implemented in every hotel and motel across the country.

The CSE Institute commands Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks for their dedication to helping sex trafficking survivors.  Most importantly, the CSE Institute applauds the bravery of the survivors in this case. After all, it is irrefutable that survivor voices will be the force of change in the sex trafficking narrative.

All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.  

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