Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and according to the Florida Attorney General’s Office, a $32 billion industry that exploits children, women and men, subjected through force, fraud or coercion for purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor. More than 150 years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S., Florida ranks No. 3 in the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s human trafficking hotline.
Increasingly, Florida human trafficking victims are pursuing civil litigation to hold accountable their captors, abusers and third-parties who allowed or facilitated their subjugation. F.S. 787.06 outlines definitions and penalties for human trafficking in Florida – including not just those who profit from trafficking with actual knowledge of the crime, but also those who do so with reckless disregard (willful blindness). However, these measures don’t necessarily link victims with the financial resources they need to start over, nor do they allow for compensation from traffickers, third parties like hotels, employers of traffickers and others.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale human trafficking attorneys recognize there are many avenues for civil action that human trafficking victims in Florida can pursue. Civil litigation can be a powerful tool to correct deep and pervasive wrongs and obtain meaningful monetary compensation.
Causes of action may be predicated on violations of the following:
- Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 – provides a right of action for damages and attorneys’ fees for violations of federal law on forced labor, trafficking with respect to servitude, sex trafficking, etc.
- Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – Requires a defendant participate in affairs of an enterprise through an ongoing pattern of racketeering activity; allows for treble damages.
- 13th Amendment and Involuntary Servitude – Criminally enforced, but some courts have recognized an implied private right of action under this statute.
- Alien Tort Claims Act – Allows federal jurisdiction for any civil action by an alien for a tort committed in violations of the law of nations or a treaty of the U.S., with courts having recognized slavery, forced labor and human trafficking as violations of international law.
- Title VII – Discrimination in employment due to employee’s race, color, sex, national origin, religion or pregnancy (applicable only to those employers with 15 or more employees).
- Sec. 1981 – Discrimination in contracts/ contractual relationships based on race/ national origin.
- Sec. 1985(3) – Allows for action for conspiracy to interfere with civil rights of any person or class of persons (as noted in 2006 federal human trafficking case of Deressa v. Gobena).
- Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
- State torts and contract claims – assault/ battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, misrepresentation, negligence.
- State labor codes and other statutes – breach of oral/ written contract, unjust enrichment, etc.
Identifying all defendants and causes of action is something an experienced human trafficking attorney can help you with. These actions are separate and apart from the criminal cases.Why Pursue Civil Litigation in Human Trafficking?
It’s important with any civil litigation to consider the pros and cons.
In some criminal cases, prosecutors will seek restitution, which can be one way for victims to obtain monetary compensation. Under state law, F.S. 775.089, can cover damages or losses directly or indirectly caused by defendant’s offense and damage/ loss related to the criminal episode. The state can issue an income deduction order for restitution, and if these measures are sufficient, it might not be necessary to pursue civil litigation. However, not all prosecutors seek restitution. Further, not all restitution orders are sufficient to cover a plaintiff’s losses. Finally, restitution orders cannot be imposed on third parties (for claims like negligent hiring, negligent supervision, inadequate security, etc.) the way they can in civil litigation.
The other benefit is that civil litigation adheres to a less rigid burden of proof compared to criminal cases (preponderance of the evidence versus beyond a reasonable doubt).
In deciding whether civil litigation is worth filing, we must ask ourselves:
- Are there potential defendants with resources to satisfy a judgment (which will be worthless unless there are assets/ insurance available that can be used to compel a liable defendant to pay)?
- Are the potential defendants located in the U.S.?
- Is there a possibility civil litigation could impact the criminal case?
- Is civil litigation going to have any impact on plaintiff’s immigration status?
- What are the safety concerns for plaintiff/ plaintiff’s family?
If you are a victim of human trafficking, it may be worth considering if your rights are being protected and if all avenues of compensation and accountability are being explored. We can help.
Contact The Ansara Law Firm for more information about pursuing a civil claim for damages after human trafficking, sexual assault, abuse or molestation. Call us at (888) ANSARA-8 for a free case review.