Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Against Ed Henry Survives Motion to Dismiss

In Eckhart v. Fox News Network, LLC and Ed Henry, 20-CV-5593, 2021 WL 4124616 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 9, 2021), the court, in part, denied defendant Ed Henry’s motion to dismiss plaintiff Jennifer Eckhart’s claims for sex trafficking under Section 1591 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1591 (TVPA).

The court summarized its holding as follows:

Eckhart seeks to hold Henry liable under a host of legal theories. She asserts that he is liable for sex trafficking because she says he used empty promises of career advancement to defraud her into coming to his hotel room, then used force to cause her to have sexual intercourse with him. To be sure, this is not a conventional claim of sex trafficking. Eckhart has not alleged, for example, that Henry forced her into prostitution or sexual slavery. But because her allegations, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the litigation, comport with the relatively broad language of the applicable statute—which classifies as sex trafficking the use of “force [or] fraud … to cause [a] person to engage in a … sex act … on account of [some]thing of value”—the Court finds her claim for sex trafficking to be sufficiently pled. She also seeks to hold Henry liable for the alleged assaults under New York City’s Gender Motivated Violence Act, and succeeds in stating a claim under that statute because of her plausible allegations that he acted with animus toward women. Eckhart further seeks to establish Henry’s liability for gender discrimination, a term that includes sexual harassment and the creation of a hostile workplace. Considering the different standards for Eckhart’s claims under the federal, New York State, and New York City antidiscrimination laws, Eckhart’s discrimination and harassment claims against Henry under city law will proceed, while her claims under federal and state law must be dismissed.

The court – parsing the TVPA’s statutory language – held that plaintiff adequately alleged that Henry “enticed” her, that she engaged in a “commercial sex act”, and that Henry “knew he would use force or fraud to entice her to engage in a commercial sex act.”

It did, however, grant Fox News’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s TVPA claim against it, since she did not show that Fox News “knew or should have known” that any Fox-Henry venture “[had] engaged in an act in violation of” within the meaning of the sex-trafficking statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1595(a).

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