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In re Hotel Indus. Sex Trafficking Litig.

Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation

February 5, 2020, Filed

MDL No. 2928

Opinion

ORDER DENYING TRANSFER

Before the Panel: Plaintiffs in six actions move under 28 U.S.C. § 1407 to centralize this litigation in the Southern District of Ohio.1 This litigation consists of 21 actions pending in 12 districts, as listed on Schedule A. Since the filing of the motion for centralization, the Panel has been notified of 17 related actions. Plaintiffs in all actions allege that they are victims of sex trafficking that occurred at hotel properties located across the country and that the involved hotel defendants are liable for damages under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 ("TVPRA"), 18 U.S.C. §1595, and, in some instances, state law.

Responding plaintiffs in five actions on the motion and six potential tag-along actions support centralization, but disagree on the appropriate transferee district, variously proposing the Southern District of Ohio, the Southern District of Texas, the Eastern District of New York, and the District of Minnesota as their preferred or alternative choice. Plaintiffs in four actions on the motion [*2]  oppose centralization and, alternatively, request the Northern District of Georgia. Nineteen anti-sex trafficking organizations provided their views in two amicus briefs — one opposing centralization, and the other supporting centralization.2

The defendants are mainly hotel brand franchisors, franchisees, other individual hotel owners and operators, and related entities. Of the 45 responding defendants, 38 defendants oppose centralization,3 including brand defendants Best Western, Choice, Extended Stay America, Hilton, Hyatt, Inter-Continental, Marriott, and Wyndham. In the event that centralization is granted over their objections, they variously suggest the Southern District of Texas, the Northern District of Georgia, the Southern District of Ohio, the Northern District of California, and the District of Massachusetts.4 Six defendants take no position on centralization and, in the alternative, suggest the Northern District of Georgia.5 One defendant, Red Roof Asset, LLC, supports centralization in the Northern District of Georgia.

On the basis of the papers filed and the hearing held, we conclude that centralization will not serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses [*3]  or further the just and efficient conduct of the litigation. Movants rely on broad similarities among the actions to support their request for centralization, emphasizing similar alleged failures by hotels to prevent sex trafficking and the importance of corporate responsibility. More specifically, they argue that all plaintiffs were victims of commercial sex trafficking at one or more hotels, that defendants knew or should have known that plaintiffs were being trafficked, and that defendants participated and knowingly financially benefitted by renting rooms to the alleged traffickers in violation of the TVPRA. We recognize the seriousness of these allegations and are sympathetic to counsel's concern for the fair treatment of victims. But the concerns they have raised do not satisfy the requirements of Section 1407. The vast majority of actions involve different hotels, with the sole exception of the four Jane Doe actions in the Northern District of Georgia.6 Apart from the Georgia actions, each action involves different alleged sex trafficking ventures, different hotel brands, different owners and employees, different geographic locales, different witnesses, different indicia of sex trafficking, [*4]  and different time periods. Thus, unique issues concerning each plaintiff's sex trafficking allegations predominate in these actions.7 Indeed, there is no common or predominant defendant across all actions, further indicating a lack of common questions of fact.

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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19882 *; __ F.Supp.3d __; 2020 WL 581882

IN RE: HOTEL INDUSTRY SEX TRAFFICKING LITIGATION

Prior History: M.A. v. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173675 (S.D. Ohio, Oct. 7, 2019)

CORE TERMS

centralization, HOTELS, trafficking, brand, sex

Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Venue, Multidistrict Litigation