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MANLIGUEZ v. JOSEPH

August 20, 2002

ELMA MANLIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
V.
MARTIN AND SOMANTI JOSEPH, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholas G. Garaufis, District Court Judge

    MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendants Martin and Somanti Joseph ("Defendants"), pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), move to dismiss as time-barred Plaintiff Elma Manliguez's ("Plaintiff" or "Manliguez") claims of involuntary servitude, Alien Tort Claims Act ("ATCA") violation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conversion. Defendants also move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims of conversion and deprivation of overtime compensation for failing to state grounds upon which relief may be granted. Finally, Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims of fraudulent inducement and negligent representation as not pled with particularity for purposes of FED. R. CIV. P. 9(b) ("Rule 9(b)"). Plaintiff opposes Defendants' motion in its entirety.

For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied in its entirety.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

For purposes of this motion to dismiss, Plaintiff's allegations are accepted as true and any reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of Plaintiff.

Plaintiff, a native of the Philippines, had been employed by Defendants for one year as a domestic servant in Malaysia when Defendants decided to return to the United States in November 1998. (Compl. ¶ 15, 23.) Defendants led Plaintiff to believe that they were simply visiting the United States. Thus, in October 1998, Defendants took Plaintiff to the United States embassy in Malaysia to request a tourist visa for her.*fn1 (Id. ¶¶ 9, 12.) Defendant Martin Joseph instructed her to inform the United States embassy that she was "seeking a visa to go on vacation." (Id. ¶ 13.) When the Embassy officials asked about her wages, Defendant Martin Joseph directed her to answer that "she was paid regularly by her employer." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that once the visa had been processed, Martin Joseph went to pick it up and purchased her ticket to New York. (Id. ¶ 14.) Defendants never returned Plaintiff's passport after arriving in the United States, even though she requested its return during her stay in the United States.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 29.)

Upon arrival, Defendants, their three children, and Manliguez moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Wexford, New York. Manliguez shouldered substantial household responsibilities. She provided 24-hour care to Defendants' youngest daughter Nicole, even sharing a twin bed with her because otherwise "the child prevented them [Defendants] from getting any rest." (Id. ¶ 52.) Manliguez also nursed Nicole when she was sick and comforted her when she awoke crying at night. (Id.) Additionally, Plaintiff woke and dressed Defendants' two other children, prepared their meals, cleaned their rooms, and bathed both Nicole and Meghan, Defendants' other daughter. (Id. ¶ 50.) Her other daily household responsibilities included: making the beds, vacuuming rugs and sweeping the floors, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and ironing. (Id. ¶ 53.) She also did the laundry, shampooed the carpets, cleaned the blinds, and changed the sheets. (Id. ¶¶ 54-56.) When Defendants moved from their apartment into a house in Hollis, New York, Plaintiff cut the grass, swept the sidewalk, and cleaned the outside windows. (Id. ¶ 60.)

Excluding the overnight care she provided the youngest daughter, Plaintiff worked from 4 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day, seven days a week. (Id. ¶ 49.) On at least two occasions, Defendants woke her up at 3 a.m. to wait on them and their guests. (Id. ¶ 64.)

Defendants did not accord Plaintiff simple courtesies during her term of employment. For instance, despite her long days, she often only ate one full meal per day. Plaintiff was only permitted to eat food left over from a previous meal and even if there was extra food, Plaintiff had to eat the oldest food available because Defendants forced her to throw out the remains of the last meal if there was food left over from an earlier meal. (Id. ¶ 72.) Moreover, Defendants would not allow Plaintiff to eat at the kitchen table — she had to eat by the washing machine in the kitchen or on the floor. (Id. ~ 70.) Finally, Defendants never accounted for Plaintiff when groceries were purchased and reprimanded Plaintiff when she cooked more servings than there were family members. (Id. ¶¶ 75-76.) Consequently, Plaintiff "lost a great deal of weight" while working for Defendants in New York. (Id. ¶ 67.)

Furthermore, Defendants did not allow Manliguez to take any vacation days, sick days, or significant periods of rest. (Id. ¶¶ 65-66.) Defendants also withheld medical care from her for the duration of her employment. (Id. ¶ 81.) When Plaintiff was ill, Defendants forced her to work but denied her any medication to fight her illness. (Id. ¶ 80.) Defendants paid her only $1,050.00 for her two years of employment. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff, however, never directly received her wages. Rather, they were wired to her bank account in the Philippines for her mother's use. (Id.) Consequently, she could not purchase basic necessities such as personal toiletries. (Id. ¶ 48.) As a result, she had to resort to using an old pair of underwear, which she washed nightly, as a sanitary napkin. (Id.)

Throughout the period of her employment, Defendant Martin Joseph verbally abused Plaintiff. He constantly humiliated and insulted her, calling her "stupid" and telling her to "shut up." (Id. ¶ 77.) Jonathan, the eldest child, began to follow his father's lead, repeatedly insulting Plaintiff and inflicting further injury.

Eventually, Plaintiff realized that Defendants had no intention of allowing her to leave and that she needed to escape. (Id. ¶ 87.) On October 18, 2000, Defendant Somanti Joseph left to pick her mother up from the airport but neglected to take her handbag, which contained the house keys. (Id. ¶ 88.) When Plaintiff realized that the keys had been left behind, she took the keys, unlocked the front door, and left the house. (Id. ¶ 89.) Acquaintances picked her up and hid her from the Defendants by transporting her to several safe houses. (Id. ¶ 90-93.) Frustrated in his attempts to locate her, Defendant Joseph Martin told Rohit that "if she returned to the Defendants, he `just may kill her.'" (Id. ¶ 94-95.)

Plaintiff filed her initial complaint on November 13, 2001. She amended the complaint on January 22, 2002.

II. Discussion

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court may consider any written document referenced by the complaint. See Yak v. Bank Brussles Lambert, 252 F.3d 127, 130 (2d Cir. 2001). In order to grant a motion to dismiss, a court must determine that, based on the complaint and referenced documents, the plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would establish her claim for relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Cohen v. Koenig, 25 F.3d 1168, 1172 (2d Cir. 1994). When determining whether the plaintiff can prove any set of facts which would entitle her to relief, a court must assume that the allegations in the complaint are true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Cooper v. Pate, 378 U.S. 546 (1964); Kaluckzky v. City of White Plains, 57 F.3d 202, 206 (2d Cir. 1995). In deciding such a motion, the "issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Bernheim v. Litt, 79 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1996) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

B. Involuntary Servitude

1. Plaintiff States an Involuntary Servitude Claim Under 18 U.S.C. § 1584*fn4

The Thirteenth Amendment and its enforcing statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1584*fn5, prohibit involuntary servitude. Involuntary servitude is defined as "a condition of servitude in which the victim is forced to work for a defendant by use or threat of physical restraint or injury or by use of coercion through law or legal process." United States v. Kozminski, 487 U.S. 931, 952 (1988).

Unlike the Fourteenth Amendment, the Thirteenth Amendment and its enabling statute apply not only to state action but also to private conduct. Defendants charged with involuntary servitude generally face criminal sanctions under section 1584.*fn6

While section 1584 imposes criminal penalties, it does not expressly provide for a civil remedy.*fn7 Provision of a criminal penalty, however, does not necessarily preclude implication of a private cause of action for damages. A court may imply a private civil cause of action if it determines that Congress, by implication, intended to create one. See Touche Ross & Co., v. Redington, 442 U.S. 560, 569 (1979). When courts have implied such a cause of action, in general, "the statute in question . . . prohibited certain conduct or created federal rights in favor of private parties." Id.

In the instant case, although section 1584 does not directly address whether or not there exists a private cause of action based on involuntary servitude, the beneficiaries of section 1584's protection are victims of this constitutionally prohibited practice. In the instant case, Plaintiff alleges that she was such a victim. Moreover, the statute is rooted in the Thirteenth Amendment, which confers upon individuals the federal right to be protected from involuntary servitude. Further, recognizing a private civil cause of action for involuntary servitude would be consistent with the underlying legislative purpose of section 1584 because it would provide a ...


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