A.B. v. Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

Decision Date08 September 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 3:19-cv-01992-IM
Citation484 F.Supp.3d 921
Parties A.B., an individual, Plaintiff, v. HILTON WORLDWIDE HOLDINGS INC.; Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc.; Marriott International, Inc.; Choice Hotels International, Inc.; Extended Stay America, Inc.; and Red Lion Hotels Corporation, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Oregon

Kathryn Avila, Pro Hac Vice, Kimberly Lambert Adams, Pro Hac Vice, Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Procor, P.A., Pensacola, FL, Shenoa L. Payne, Shenoa Payne Attorney at Law PC, Joel Shapiro, Law Office of Joel Shapiro, LLC, Portland, OR, for Plaintiff.

Bethany K. Biesenthal, Jones Day, Chicago, IL, Nicole Marie Perry, Jones Day, Houston, TX, Jeff S. Pitzer, Pitzer Law, Portland, OR, for Defendant Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc.

David Sager, Pro Hac Vice, DLA Piper LLP, Short Hills, NJ, Anthony A. Todaro, DLA Piper LLP, Seattle, WA, for Defendant Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc.

Ellen E. Dew, Pro Hac Vice, DLA Piper LLP, Baltimore, MD, Anthony A. Todaro, DLA Piper LLP, Seattle, WA, for Defendant Marriott International, Inc.

Sara Marie Turner, Pro Hac Vice, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, Birmingham, AL, Anne M. Talcott, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, Portland, OR, for Defendant Choice Hotels Corporation.

Christopher T. Byrd, Pro Hac Vice, Emily Marie Adams, Pro Hac Vice, George B. Green, Jr., Pro Hac Vice, Shubhra Mashelkar, Pro Hac Vice, Patrick Bryant Moore, Pro Hac Vice, Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial LLC, Atlanta, GA, Nicholas A. Kampars, Wildwood Law Group LLC, Portland, OR, for Defendant Extended Stay America, Inc.

Graham B. Miller, Karin Schaffer, Wood Smith Henning & Berman, LLP, Portland, OR, for Defendant Red Lion Hotels Corporation.

OPINION AND ORDER

IMMERGUT, District Judge.

Plaintiff A.B. brings this action against six hotel chains: Defendants Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.1 ("Hilton"), Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc. ("Wyndham"), Marriott International, Inc. ("Marriott"), Choice Hotels International, Inc.2 ("Choice"), Extended Stay America, Inc. ("ESA"), and Red Lion Hotels Corporation ("Red Lion"). Plaintiff's claim against Defendants alleges that they each violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act ("TVPRA") by profiting from her sex trafficking.

Before the Court are the following motions: (1) Defendant Choice's and Defendant ESA's Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF 37, 72); (2) Defendants Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham, Red Lion, Choice, and ESA's Motions to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim under Rule 12(b)(6) (ECF 14, 15, 17, 27, 37, 74); (3) Defendant Hilton's Motion to Dismiss Hilton as an improper party under Rule 21 (ECF 15); and in the alternative, (5) Defendant Choice's and Defendant Red Lion's Motions to Strike under Rule 12(f) (ECF 27, 37). On August 14, 2020, this Court heard oral argument on all motions.

For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Defendant Choice's and Defendant ESA's Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. This Court further grants the Motions to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendants Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, and Red Lion with leave to amend. Defendant Hilton's Motion to Dismiss Hilton as an improper party under Rule 21 is denied. Finally, Defendant Choice and Defendant Red Lion's Motions to Strike are denied as moot.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was 22 years old when she was first trafficked through Oregon and Washington. ECF 1 at ¶ 9(a). Beginning in September 2012 through March 2013, Plaintiff alleges she was sold by her trafficker for sex at six different hotels, including the DoubleTree® in Portland, Oregon, a Hilton branded property ("DoubleTree Portland"), the Days Inn® in Vancouver, Washington, a Wyndham branded property ("Days Inn Vancouver"), the Residence Inn® located near Portland International Airport in Oregon, a Marriott branded property ("Residence Inn Portland Airport"), the Rodeway Inn® in Vancouver, Washington, a Choice branded property ("Rodeway Inn Vancouver"), the Extended Stay America® in Vancouver, Washington, an ESA branded property ("Extended Stay America Vancouver"), and the Red Lion Inn® in Salem, Oregon, a Red Lion branded property ("Red Lion Salem") (collectively, "Defendants' hotels"). Id. at ¶¶ 10(i), 67(a) (Hilton); 11(j), 68(e) (Wyndham); 12(j), 69(a) (Marriott); 13(j), 70(a) (Choice); 14(j), 70(l) (ESA); 15(j), 71(a) (Red Lion); 74, 76.

Plaintiff alleges that during the seven-month period during which she was trafficked, there were "apparent red flags" of Plaintiff being sex trafficked at Defendants' hotels. Id. at ¶ 84. These signs of sex trafficking included Plaintiff repeatedly staying at the hotel without any luggage, always avoiding eye contact or interactions with the staff, and showing physical signs of malnourishment. Id. at ¶ 80, 90. In addition, Plaintiff's room exhibited signs of commercial sex work: abundant used condoms throughout the room and in the trash, bottles of lubricants, boxes of condoms, and numerous requests for towels and linens. Id. at ¶¶ 77, 79, 82. Plaintiff avers that male guests frequently visited her room and left shortly after arrival. Id. at ¶ 77. Late at night, Plaintiff would wear a tank top and "booty shorts" to open the front lobby door for unregistered male guests. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that her trafficker always booked the rooms directly from the front desk or online. Id. at ¶ 78. He paid for each room using his debit card or cash and often booked rooms using an employee discount code. Id. After booking the room, her trafficker would get two keys and take one key to Plaintiff, who would be waiting in the car. Id. Plaintiff's trafficker used hotel WiFi to post advertisements, talk to "johns", and watch and record Plaintiff's sexual acts. Id. at ¶ 75.

After waiting in the car while her trafficker checked in, Plaintiff would walk to the hotel room by herself, never making eye contact or speaking to anyone. Id. at ¶¶ 78, 80. Plaintiff alleges she encountered the same hotel staff over the course of the time she was trafficked for sex at Defendants' hotels and that the hotel staff paid no attention to her. Id. at ¶¶ 80, 81. Plaintiff was arrested on Defendants' hotels' property grounds. Id. at ¶ 88.

Plaintiff brings a single claim under the TVPRA against each Defendant. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 8. As to all Defendants, Plaintiff also alleges that each "owns, supervises and/or operates" one of the branded hotels where she was trafficked, and each benefitted financially from room rental and other incidentals recognized by renting rooms in which she was trafficked. Id. at ¶¶ 10(h), 10(i), 11(i), 11(j), 12(i), 12(j), 13(i), 13(j), 14(i), 14(j), 15(i), 15(j). Plaintiff alleges that each Defendant had constructive knowledge of sex trafficking occurring on its branded properties. Id. at ¶¶ 67(c), 68(g), 69(c), 70(d), 70(n), 71(c). According to Plaintiff, each Defendant knew or should have known that their branded hotel where Plaintiff was trafficked was in an area "known for high incidences of crime and prone to sex trafficking activity on and around the hotel premises, including when Plaintiff A.B. was trafficked." Id. at ¶¶ 67(d), 68(h), 69(d), 70(e), 70(o), 71(d). Each Defendant allegedly failed to implement policies to protect Plaintiff from being trafficked and continues to profit from the business sex trafficking brings. Id. at ¶¶ 67(b), 68(g), 69(c), 70(b)(c), 70(m), 71(a)(b). Plaintiff also cites news reports and online reviews to allege that each Defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of sex trafficking occurring at their branded hotels throughout the country and asserts that each Defendant's knowledge facilitated the sex trafficking of Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 67(j), 68(n), 69(j), 70(k), 70(u), 71(j). As to the relationship between each Defendant and their branded hotels, Plaintiff contends that they were each in an agency relationship through Defendants' "exercise of an ongoing and systematic right of control over [their branded hotels]" including how their branded hotels conducted daily business. Id. at ¶¶ 67(g), 68(k), 69(g), 70(h), 70(r), 71(g). Plaintiff also alleges that each Defendant "held out [their] branded hotels to the public as possessing authority to act on its behalf." Id. at ¶¶ 67(h), 68(l), 69(h), 70(i), 70(s), 71(h).

As to Defendant Hilton, Plaintiff specifically added an allegation that she was repeatedly sold at the DoubleTree Portland by a pimp. Id. at ¶ 67(j)(vii). Plaintiff further alleges that in 2011, Defendant Hilton made a commitment to provide training and education on human trafficking prevention at its branded hotels, including DoubleTree® branded hotels. Id. at 29 n.44, ¶ 67(i). Plaintiff contends that Hilton knew that human trafficking was occurring at DoubleTree® branded hotels yet failed to follow through with its commitment to take action to prevent sex trafficking. Id. at ¶¶ 67(b), 67(i).

As a specific allegation against Wyndham, Plaintiff asserts that in 2011, Wyndham's predecessor entity Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, signed the End Child Prostitution and Trafficking's ("ECPAT-USA") Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (the "Code") which identifies six steps companies can take to prevent child sex trafficking. Id. at ¶¶ 40–41, 68(c). Plaintiff alleges Wyndham did not follow the Code. Id. at ¶ 68(c). Plaintiff also alleges that Wyndham trained only some of its employees to look for signs of trafficking. Id. at ¶ 53.

Likewise for Defendant Choice, Plaintiff specifically alleges that Choice claims it has supported the anti-trafficking group Polaris since 2010 and is in a partnership with ECPAT which developed a training module in 2010 for hotel management and staff. Id. at ¶ 55. Plaintiff contends that Choice failed to implement and enforce any of these policies to protect Plaintiff from being sex trafficked. Id. at ¶¶ 70(b), 70(j).

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