Can Hotels Be Sued in Oregon for Not Addressing Human Trafficking?


In Oregon, there are two ways hotels can face civil liability for not addressing sex trafficking in their establishment:

First, a hotel potentially faces civil liability because Oregon law expressly allows victims to sue anyone who profited from their victimization. Under Oregon Law, civil liability is imposed on any person who “knowingly benefits financially or receives something of value from participation in a venture that involves an act” prohibited by Oregon human trafficking statutes. Thus, victims of sex trafficking can bring a civil cause of action against hotels who knowingly rented a room to a trafficker and profited from their victimization.

Second, a hotel potentially faces civil liability merely by being an indirect/direct cause of harm caused to a victim, or if they even potentially violated any of Oregon’s criminal human trafficking laws. Oregon human trafficking law states that a hotel employee or owner can be found criminally liable under state law if they knowingly harbored – or attempted to harbor – another person and knows or recklessly disregards the fact that force, fraud or coercion will be used” to cause the victim “to engage in a commercial sex act.” In the case of a minor, there is no force, fraud or coercion requirement to be criminally liable, only that the minor status of the victim went “recklessly” undetected by the hotel.

The definition of Human “Trafficker” in Oregon:

Also, pertinent to hotels is that Oregon law defines traffickers as not only those who directly traffic or “pimp” victims, but also as those who buy sex. Therefore, if a hotel knowingly rents a room to a trafficker – a “pimp” or buyer of sex – for the purpose of a commercial sex act, or should have known that it was renting a room to a trafficker for that purpose, the hotel can be held criminally liable. But a hotel does not need to violate these human trafficking laws – much less be convicted of violating one – to also face civil liability. Oregon law “provides the right to bring a civil action for damages suffered by a victim of human trafficking and involuntary servitude irrespective of the initiation or outcome of any criminal action.” Consequently, not only do hotels and its employees face potential criminal liability for violating human trafficking laws, they also face separate and entirely independent civil liability for any act(s) involved in the damage to a victim, regardless of if the conduct of the hotel is alleged or found to be criminal.

Victims of human trafficking in Oregon are expressly permitted to file suit to recover “both special and general damages, including damages for emotional distress,” punitive damages, and attorney fees. The law also allows for a court to grant restitution to a victim when the defendant’s crime “has resulted in economic damages.”

The Takeaways:

  • Oregon Hotels face civil liability from 1) renting the room to someone they know or suspect is a trafficker and 2) contributing to the environment that allows sex trafficking to go on that leads to damages.
  • The definition of “Trafficker” in Oregon is very broad and can include hotel employees and management who do not report trafficking to the proper authorities which opens them up to civil liability.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and your hotel with the Guardian Seal® Training.