Sex-Trafficking Victims Awarded More Than $24M In Arbitration

An arbitrator found the motel owner responsible for the human trafficking operations that occurred on the property.

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ByZach Barreto

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Published on May 21, 2024

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The Background

In 2013, sex traffickers forced two young women, going by the initials B.H. and C.A. in court documents, into prostitution at the ages of 16 and 17. For two weeks, the traffickers took B.H., age 17, to the North American Motor Inns on City Avenue in Philadelphia. C.A., age 16, was trafficked from the same location for nearly a year.

At the motel, the victims suffered severe and constant violence and sexual abuse from the traffickers and unknown customers. The traffickers drugged the victims and threatened to kill their families if they did not cooperate. If the victims did not meet their quotas for the day, the traffickers would beat, smack, burn, and kick them.

In May 2013, B.H. escaped her trafficker, and in October 2013, the FBI recovered C.A. in Northeast Philadelphia. A judge found the traffickers guilty of their criminal activities and sentenced them to prison.

The Allegations

In March 2019, the victims, represented by Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks of Kline & Specter PC, filed a lawsuit against the owner of North American Motor Inns, Ramara, Inc. They alleged that the motel owner was responsible for the human trafficking operations that occurred on its property. The victims’ attorneys argued that the motel owner was aware of the criminal activity present at the motel and was negligent in not working to prevent it.

On the other hand, Ramara, Inc., represented by Hugh P. O'Neill and John A. Lucy of Thomas Thomas Hafer LLP, argued that the plaintiffs did not establish that they breached a duty of care to the victims. According to Ramara’s attorneys, another company leased the hotel at the time of sex trafficking and was responsible for the activity that occurred on the premises.

According to Ramara, they were merely a landlord in possession of the property during the time in question. They argued that Ramara did not have employees at the motel and did not maintain a daily presence at the time.

The Arbitration Award and The Takeaway

The parties entered into arbitration before William Ricci of Ricci Tyrrell Johnson & Grey. The arbitrator found that the motel owner breached its duty of care and awarded $12 million and $12.5 million to the victims, respectively, to be paid by Ramara Inc.

The bravery of the victims led to a significant victory in holding business owners accountable for criminal activity on their premises. Criminal sex trafficking cases are difficult to investigate and prosecute. Moreover, the judgment does not always help make the victims whole. However, proving that a business owner was negligent in failing to prevent sex trafficking on its premises helps prevent sex trafficking, share accountability, and make victims whole.

About the author

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto is a distinguished professional in the legal industry, currently serving as the Senior Vice President of Research at the Expert Institute. With a deep understanding of a broad range of legal practice areas, Zach's expertise encompasses personal injury, medical malpractice, mass torts, defective products, and many other sectors. His skills are particularly evident in handling complex litigation matters, including high-profile cases like the Opioids litigation, NFL Concussion Litigation, California Wildfires, 3M earplugs, Elmiron, Transvaginal Mesh, NFL Concussion Litigation, Roundup, Camp Lejeune, Hernia Mesh, IVC filters, Paraquat, Paragard, Talcum Powder, Zantac, and many others.

Under his leadership, the Expert Institute’s research team has expanded impressively from a single member to a robust team of 100 professionals over the last decade. This growth reflects his ability to navigate the intricate and demanding landscape of legal research and expert recruitment effectively. Zach has been instrumental in working on nationally significant litigation matters, including cases involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, toxic chemical exposure, and wrongful death, among others.

At the Expert Institute, Zach is responsible for managing all aspects of the research department and developing strategic institutional relationships. He plays a key role in equipping attorneys for success through expert consulting, case management, strategic research, and expert due diligence provided by the Institute’s cloud-based legal services platform, Expert iQ.

Educationally, Zach holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and European History from Vanderbilt University.

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