The Law Office of Robert L. Teel Defeats Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss on All Twelve (12) Causes of Action in CoreCivic Forced Labor Litigation



Defendants’ motion to dismiss challenged whether Plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged 12 separate causes of action for claims arising under the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act; California Trafficking Victims Protection Act; California Unfair Competition Law; four (4) separate sections of the California Labor Code and Wage Orders; three (3) additional sections of the California Labor Code; Negligence; and Unjust Enrichment.

In upholding the Plaintiffs’ trafficking and forced labor claims, Judge Sammartino ruled, “Plaintiffs’ Complaint contains factual allegations, which the Court must accept as true, that go beyond the personal housekeeping tasks listed in the ICE manual. In sum, the Court finds that no reason proffered by Defendant removes its alleged conduct from 18 U.S.C. § 1589’s plain meaning.”

Judge Sammartino went on to say, “Here, Plaintiffs allege a specific punishment (solitary confinement) carried out or threatened to be carried out as a direct consequence for refusing to perform labor. The conduct occurred while Plaintiffs were under the exclusive control of Defendant. Such allegations are sufficient here. In sum, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently stated a claim for a TVPA violation.

Regarding the California trafficking and forced labor claim, Judge Sammartino ruled, “California Penal Code § 236.1 regulates conduct of private parties who are not exempt from the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition of involuntary servitude. The Court finds that the California TVPA is available. Moreover, the Court finds Plaintiffs state a claim under the California TVPA. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant threatened to place non-compliant detainees in solitary confinement if they refused to perform certain labor. As previously discussed, solitary confinement, even for those in confinement and whose liberty is already deprived, constitutes deprivation of personal liberty. Plaintiffs also allege that the solitary confinement was a punishment for refusing to perform work, which demonstrates Defendant’s intent to obtain labor or services from Plaintiffs. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiffs state a claim under the California TVPA.”

As to Plaintiffs’ Labor Code and Wage Order claims, the court rejected Defendant’s contentions that Plaintiffs and the proposed class were not employees, stating, “[t]he logical conclusion is that, at a minimum, Defendant controls the wages, hours, and working conditions of Plaintiffs and putative class members. As such, Defendant employed Plaintiffs and putative class members for purposes of California Labor Code § 1194.”

Regarding Plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims, the Court held, “Here, Plaintiffs allegations sufficiently state a claim for unjust enrichment or quasi-contract. Defendant received the value of Plaintiffs’ labor and allegedly did not adequately compensate Plaintiffs.”

Finally, regarding Plaintiffs’ Unfair Competition Law and Negligence claims, the Court stated, “Defendant argues that Plaintiffs’ derivative causes of action—California Unfair Competition Law and Negligence—should be dismissed as they rely entirely on violations of the federal and California TVPA and California Labor Code. Because Plaintiffs claims survive this Motion, the Court will not dismiss Plaintiffs’ derivative claims.”

The attorney representing the Plaintiffs litigating the complaint and opposing the motion to dismiss is sole practitioner Robert Teel.

Owino, et al. v. CoreCivic, Inc., No. 3-17-cv-1112 JLS (NLS), Order (S.D. Cal., May 14, 2018).

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