LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A woman suing a Little Rock hotel claiming its staff was negligent for ignoring signs of a human trafficking ring, is now saying a manager lived at the hotel when this abuse happened.
This could be a monumental case. It’s the first time in Arkansas there’s been a civil suit against a hotel saying they should be held responsible for alleged trafficking.
The suit was first filed last year and names the woman as Jane Doe. Doe claims in 2014 she was coerced and threatened into staying at the hotel and was then, ” “forced to have sex with and perform sexual acts on ten to twelve individuals per day.”
Doe is represented by attorneys Meredith Moore and Lauren Manatt at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.
“This was not her fault,” Moore said. “Other people were causing the abuse and profiting from it. “Those are violent, very scary criminals that were living and operating what is a multimillion-dollar business, basically from the fourth floor of the hotel.”
An updated lawsuit filed this week, names a former manager and says he lived at the hotel on the same floor where the trafficking ring booked every available room for a nearly three-month long period.
“The staff, management and the hotel itself knew that this was going on,” Moore said. “This was a trafficking ring that was taking up the entire fourth floor.”
The suit also argues the former manager, “directed staff to not call the police or report suspicious activity.”
“Even when our Jane Doe was very close to escaping, when they were told to leave the hotel, it was actually the staff themselves that escorted them out to avoid being noticed by police who were there on a separate drug investigation,” Moore added.
Calls to the former manager have not been answered.
Lawyers at the Huckabay Law Firm representing the hotel’s owners say they can’t comment because it’s an ongoing case, but they are fighting to throw out the suit arguing too much time has passed.
Victimologist Molly Smith, Ph.D., argues that the statute of limitations shouldn’t apply here.
“Victims themselves don’t necessarily realize they’ve been victimized immediately,” Smith explained.
According to Smith the statute of limitations should only start applying when a victim understands and knows the extent of what happened to them, which can take years.
“These aren’t women that want to be in this situation, that are wanting to prostitute themselves out. These women are being forced to,” Smith said. “They have no option other than that, and they are being held completely against their will at the detriment of their own safety and security.”
Regardless of what happens in the courtroom, for the alleged victim, the real win will be stopping another hotel from being used for trafficking.
“That’s what we want out of this, a system change where hotels are on notice,” Moore said. “If you know there is this potential for danger to people that are occupying your business, you have a duty to protect them.”
You can read the full lawsuit below: