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Sophia Kiwanuka v. Anne Margareth Bakilana

February 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on defendants' Motion [8] to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment. Upon consideration of defendants' Motion [8], plaintiff's opposition [9], defendants' reply [10], plaintiff's notice of supplemental authority [14], the applicable law, and the entire record in this case, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART defendants' Motion. The Court will explain its reasoning in the analysis that follows.


The facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true for purposes of this Motion to dismiss. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). Plaintiff Sophia Kiwanuka was born in Tanzania on December 27, 1983. Compl. ¶ 14. In 2004 and again in 2008, Ms. Kiwanuka signed an employment contract with defendant Anne Margareth Bakilana, pursuant to which Ms. Kiwanuka would travel from Tanzania to the United States to work as a domestic servant for Ms. Bakilana and her husband, defendant Raymond D. Rwehumbiza. Id. ¶¶ 1, 20, 24, 59. Ms. Bakilana and Mr. Rwehumbiza are Tanzanians who come from wealthy and influential families. Id. ¶ 17, 18. At the time of the events in question, Ms. Bakilana was employed in Washington, D.C. as an economist for the World Bank Group. Id. ¶ 13. Ms. Kiwanuka traveled to the United States in 2004 and again in 2009 under a G-5 non-immigrant visa, which was arranged by the defendants. Id. ¶ 12. At the time of her arrival in the United States, Ms. Kiwanuka's English skills were limited. Id. ¶ 14.

When Ms. Kiwanuka first came to the United States in 2004, the defendants lived with their four-month-old son in Rosslyn, Virginia. Id. ¶ 13. In 2005, the defendants moved to Falls Church, Virginia. Id. When the defendants brought Ms. Kiwanuka back to the United States in 2009, they lived with their two sons in Falls Church, Virginia. Id.

Ms. Kiwanuka alleges that the defendants lured her to the United States with promises of reasonable working conditions, educational opportunities, and decent pay. Id. ¶¶ 1, 20, 55. However, Ms. Kiwanuka claims that upon both of her arrivals in the United States, the defendants confiscated her passport, held her in isolation, and used threats of deportation to manipulate her into working long hours as a domestic servant and nanny to their children. Id. ¶¶ 2, 3, 66--68. Believing that if she stopped working for the defendants she would be deported within twenty-four hours, id. ¶ 28, Ms. Kiwanuka worked seven days a week, without breaks to rest or eat, id. ¶¶ 3, 69, 70, and allegedly endured Ms. Bakilana's regular verbal and psychological abuse, id. ¶¶ 35, 36.

In July 2009, the FBI launched an investigation into defendants' employment and exploitation of Ms. Kiwanuka in response to a tip of a possible human trafficking situation. Id. ¶ 4. FBI officers provided Ms. Kiwanuka with a recording device, which she used to record her conversations with Ms. Bakilana. Id. The recorded conversations captured Ms. Bakilana warning Ms. Kiwanuka that she would be immediately escorted out of the country by the FBI if she stopped working for the defendants. Id. Ex. B ("Bakilana Statement"), ¶ 14.

When FBI agents and a federal prosecutor questioned Ms. Bakilana, she willfully and knowingly made false statements about Ms. Kiwanuka's pay and the threats of deportation she used to control Ms. Kiwanuka. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 6. Ms. Bakilana subsequently pled guilty to two counts of knowingly and willfully making materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the United States government, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). See Compl. Ex. A ("Plea Agreement"), at 1. In the statement of stipulated facts that Ms. Bakilana signed in conjunction with her plea agreement, she admitted that Ms. Kiwanuka was "available for work for Ms. Bakilana seven days a week" and that Ms. Kiwanuka "worked more than 40 hours per week." Bakilana Statement ¶ 8. Ms. Bakilana further admitted that she "developed a scheme to prey upon [Ms. Kiwanuka's] lack of sophistication about bank accounting to obtain [Ms. Kiwanuka's] labor at a rate far below the . . . legally required minimum wage." Id. ¶ 9(b). As part of her plea agreement, Ms. Bakilana further admitted that Ms. Kiwanuka was the victim of an offense listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(c)(1)(a) and that Ms. Bakilana therefore owed Ms. Kiwanuka restitution. See Plea Agreement at 5--6. On July 2, 2010, Ms. Bakilana was sentenced in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to two years' probation and ordered to pay Ms. Kiwanuka $41,626.80 in restitution. Compl. ¶ 8.

In the present case, Ms. Kiwanuka seeks damages from Ms. Bakilana and Mr. Rwehumbiza for having been trafficked into the United States for forced labor. She also seeks damages for various state torts and additional unpaid wages. In Count I, plaintiff alleges that the defendants held her in involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and 18 U.S.C. § 1584. In Count II, plaintiff brings a claim under 18 U.S.C. § 1595 alleging that the defendants engaged in trafficking of Ms. Kiwanuka in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1590. In Count III, plaintiff alleges that defendants committed a forced labor violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, 18 U.S.C. § 1589. In Count IV, plaintiff alleges that the defendants willfully failed to pay Ms. Kiwanuka federal statutory minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and regulations of the U.S. Department of Labor. In Count V, plaintiff brings a claim for damages against the defendants based on the theory of unjust enrichment. In Counts VI and VII, plaintiff brings claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence, respectively, against the defendants. In Count VIII, plaintiff brings a claim of fraudulent inducement against Ms. Bakilana. In Counts IX, X, and XI, plaintiff brings breach of contract claims against Ms. Bakilana. And, in Counts XII and XIII, plaintiff brings claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud, respectively, against Ms. Bakilana.

Defendants move to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and statute of limitations grounds, and pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3) for improper venue. In the alternative, defendants move for summary judgment.


A.Failure to State a Claim

A motion to dismiss is appropriate when a complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). To overcome this hurdle, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). The Court must "accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," Atherton v. District of Columbia, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009), and grant a plaintiff "the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged," Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). However, the Court may not "accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Id. In other words, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009); see also Atherton, 567 F.3d at 681.

B.Statute of Limitations

The affirmative defense of statute of limitations may be raised via a Rule 12(b)(6) motion when the facts that give rise to the defense are clear from the face of the complaint. Smith-Haynie v. District of Columbia, 155 F.3d 575, 578 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Because, however, statute of limitations issues often turn on contested questions of fact, the Court should hesitate to dismiss a complaint on statute of limitations grounds based solely on the face of the complaint. Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1209 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Rather, the Court should grant a motion to dismiss only if the complaint on its face is conclusively time-barred. Id.; Doe v. Dep't of Justice, 753 F.2d 1092, 1115 (D.C. Cir. 1985). If "no reasonable person could disagree on the date" on which the cause of action accrued, the Court may dismiss a claim on statute of limitations grounds. Smith v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 3 F. Supp. 2d 1473, 1475 (D.D.C. 1998) (citing Kuwait Airways Corp. v. Am. Sec. Bank, N.A., 890 F.2d 456, 463 n.11 (D.C. Cir. 1989)).

C.Summary Judgment

"If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . , matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the trier of fact must view all facts, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In order to defeat summary judgment, a factual dispute must be capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the case and be supported by sufficiently admissible evidence that a reasonable trier of fact could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247--48 (1986); Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242--43 (D.C. Cir. 1987). "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial[, and t]he moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotext Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

Generally, when a court relies upon matters outside the pleadings, a motion to dismiss must be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of pursuant to Rule 56. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). "However, where a document is referred to in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's claim, such a document attached to the motion papers may be considered without converting the motion to one for summary judgment." Vanover v. Hantman, 77 F. Supp. 2d 91, 98 (D.D.C. 1999), aff'd, 38 Fed. Appx. 4 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citing Greenberg v. Life Ins. Co. of Va., 177 F.3d 507, 514 (6th Cir. 1999).


Where the district court's jurisdiction "is not founded solely on diversity of citizenship," 28 U.S.C. ยง 1391(b) requires that suit be brought in (1) "a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located"; (2) "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred"; or (3) "if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action"-"except as otherwise provided ...

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