Victim of sex trafficking held at Springdale hotel awarded $25M

A judge ordered a company to pay more than $25 million to a sex trafficking victim after the girl was held at a Springdale hotel.

Benton County Circuit Judge Doug Schrantz issued the ruling Friday in the victim’s case against OM Hospitality Inc., Economy Inn and several John Does.

The judge issued a default judgment April 8 on the woman’s behalf and set the next phase of the proceedings for damages.

Denise Hoggard and Meredith Moore, the woman’s attorneys, appeared in court July 15 for a hearing concerning the damages. The defendant did not appear for those proceedings.

Schrantz found that from the summer of 2014 through July 2018 the woman, who was then between 14 and 17 years old, was the victim of manipulation, coercion and abuse, according to court documents.

She turned 18 in June 2018, according to court documents. The lawsuit was filed in May 2021.

The woman was held by her trafficker at Economy Inn at 3574 W. Sunset St. in Springdale, according to court documents.

Schrantz’s order states the woman’s trafficker forced her to engage in sexual acts with men in exchange for money and all the money went to the trafficker. The acts took place at the Economy Inn, according to court documents.

The woman was kept by her trafficker at the location for up to a month and a half at a time, according to court documents.

Economy Inn management would notify her trafficker if law enforcement was looking around and would advise the trafficker to move her down the street to the Royal Inn until things quieted down; the back and forth movement between the two hotels happened for three years according to court documents.

The trafficker paid for the rooms in cash and motel cleaning staff were never allowed in the rooms where the trafficker and victim were staying, according to court documents.

Schrantz found that the hotel owed a duty of care to the victim and did not live up to that duty by:

  • Failing to inspect rooms rented for long periods of time.
  • Failing to inspect rooms that have significant foot traffic from non-registered guests to a room rented over the period of several days and weeks.
  • Failing to properly train staff on the warning signs of human trafficking.
  • Failing to notify law enforcement once signs of human trafficking became apparent.
  • Failing to implement proper security procedures to monitor foot traffic.
  • Failing to properly monitor guest check-in and implement policies and procedures to verify guest identity.
  • Failing to maintain a safe premise.

The breach caused the damages to the victim, according to Schrantz’s order.

Schrantz found that the victim was trafficked between Economy Inn and the Royal Inn, and the two businesses conspired to conceal the victim’s trafficking. I found the victim’s damages are due to the negligence of the businesses.

Schrantz awarded the woman $3,141,600 for the potential loss of life expectancy of 13.2 years, $714,000 for the harm she suffered while being trafficked between the two businesses, and $2.5 million for pain and suffering.

In addition, Schrantz awarded the woman $19,066,800 in punitive damages.

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