United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. MEHTA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Fattima Lagayan claims that Defendant Mustafa Odeh and his
wife, Defendant Sama Atallah, illegally trafficked her into
the United States and forced her to work for them without
pay. She has sued Defendants under various federal statutes
and asserted several common law torts. Before the court is
Defendants’ Partial Motion to Dismiss, in which
Defendants seek to dismiss nine claims under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Those counts are: (1) Counts I
through V for violations of the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1595; (2) Count VI for
conspiracy to violate 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and the
Thirteenth Amendment, and Count IX for civil conspiracy; (3)
Count XII for fraudulent inducement; and (4) Count XIII for
reasons discussed below, the court grants Defendants’
Motion in part and denies it in part. The court holds that
Plaintiff has stated plausible claims under the Trafficking
Victims Protection Act, for civil conspiracy, and for
fraudulent inducement. The court, however, holds that
Plaintiff has not made out claims of conspiracy to violate 42
U.S.C. § 1985(3) and the Thirteenth Amendment and
therefore will dismiss those claims. Additionally, the court,
by Plaintiff’s consent, will dismiss her claim for
2009, Plaintiff-a citizen of the Philippines-was employed as
a domestic worker when she was recruited to work abroad.
Compl., ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Compl.], ¶¶ 14, 16.
Two years later, the agency that recruited her smuggled her
out of the Philippines and, after stops in Malaysia and
Bahrain, brought her to its offices in Jordan. Id.
¶¶ 18-24. Plaintiff then signed a contract
obligating her to work for two years for whomever the agency
selected. Id. ¶ 26. Shortly thereafter, she was
placed with Defendant Lama Odeh (“Lama”), a
resident of Jordan. Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff has yet
to serve Lama with the Complaint; therefore, she is not
before the court.
March 2011 to November 2012, Plaintiff worked for Lama, who
held her passport. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. During
the course of her employment, Plaintiff was
“physically, emotionally, and verbally abus[ed].”
Id. ¶ 32. Lama called her an
“animal” and even “threatened to kill
Plaintiff because Defendant Lama felt . . . Plaintiff had not
performed a domestic task adequately.” Id.
¶¶ 32-33. Twice, Plaintiff escaped through a window
and went to the agency to complain about her treatment, but
she was ignored and sent back to work for Lama. Id.
¶ 34. After the second attempted escape, Lama asked
Plaintiff if she would like to work for Lama’s
brother-Defendant Mustafa Odeh (“Mustafa”)-in the
United States, but “Plaintiff said no.”
Id. ¶ 35. Lama asked two more times, but she
received the same negative response each time. Id.
October 2012, Lama told Plaintiff that Plaintiff would be
accompanying her family for a month-long trip to the United
States with Mustafa. Id. ¶ 36. A week before
the trip, however, Lama told Plaintiff that Plaintiff instead
would be travelling alone to the United States to work for
Mustafa for the month-long period. Id. ¶¶
36-37. While Plaintiff did not want to go, she “felt
that she was required to do so.” Id. ¶
early November 2012, Lama arranged for Plaintiff to be
dropped off at the airport where she received her passport.
Id. ¶ 38. She then boarded a plane to Dubai,
where Mustafa was waiting for her. Id. There,
Mustafa told Plaintiff that she would be working for him for
seven months and that he would pay her “at the same
rate Defendant Lama had plus a little more[.]”
Id. Mustafa took Plaintiff’s passport for the
duration of the flight, gave it back to her as they went
through customs and immigration, and then seized it again
before they left the airport in the United States.
Id. ¶ 39. Mustafa and his wife, Defendant Sama
Atallah (“Atallah”)-the court will collectively
refer to Mustafa and Atallah as “Defendants” in
this Memorandum Opinion-kept Plaintiff’s passport
hidden in their home for the entirety of Plaintiff’s
stay with them. Id.
the time Plaintiff arrived in the United States on November
5, 2012, she worked for Defendants as a “live-in
domestic worker.” Id. ¶¶ 40-41.
During that time, Plaintiff worked each day of the week,
including weekends, from 7 or 8 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m.
Id. ¶¶ 43-44. Plaintiff was required to
perform various household chores, including preparing meals,
doing dishes, caring for Defendants’ young child, and
cleaning the house. Id. ¶ 44. She was not
permitted to speak to anyone outside the
family-“particularly other Filipinos, ”
id. ¶ 49-nor was she allowed to leave the
apartment by herself, id. ¶ 46. Plaintiff
claims that she “could not have left the . . .
apartment building on her own in any event, because the
elevator to Defendants’ floor required a key card to
operate[, ]” which she did not have. Id.
¶ 48. Although Plaintiff was permitted to contact her
family in the Philippines, she was allowed to do so only once
a month for ten to thirty minutes. Id. ¶ 46. In
addition, when Defendants’ family entertained guests,
Mustafa’s father often verbally abused Plaintiff.
was afraid to break Defendants’ rules “because of
her experience in Jordan” with Lama. Id.
¶ 49. While she “did not know precisely what would
happen if she violated the rules . . . she understood them as
threats.” Id. Because she did not speak
English, she had no knowledge of the United States legal
system-or her immigration status. And, because she did not
have access to her passport, Plaintiff “feared that if
she tried to talk to a police officer, she would be arrested
and deported.” Id.
Mustafa asked Plaintiff whether she would prefer to be paid
monthly or at the end of her time with Defendants.
Id. ¶ 50. Even though she asked to be paid
monthly, Mustafa said he would hold her wages, as it would be
“safer” for him to do so. Id. A few
months into her time with Defendants, Plaintiff informed them
that her father was ill, had been hospitalized, and needed
money for treatment. Id. ¶ 51. At first
Defendants told Plaintiff that they would pay her
“tomorrow, ” and then that they would pay her
upon returning to Jordan, but they never did. Id.
Plaintiff began to believe that Defendants would never pay
her. Id. ¶¶ 51-52.
thereafter, Plaintiff gained the attention of a Filipina
woman-Sofia Maulana- during one of the family’s weekly
trips to the mosque. Id. ¶ 53. Recognizing that
Plaintiff was scared to speak to her, Maulana wrote her name
and phone number on a napkin and gave it to Plaintiff when
Mustafa was not looking. Id. A week or so later,
Plaintiff called Maulana late at night to ask for help.
Id. ¶ 54. Together, they planned
Plaintiff’s escape. In late March 2013, Plaintiff
packed her belongings and fled Defendants’ apartment
late at night to meet Maulana. Id. ¶¶
November 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this court
against Mustafa, Atallah, and Lama. See generally
Compl. As noted, Plaintiff only has served Mustafa and
Atallah; therefore, they are the only Defendants before the
court. Defendants answered some of the claims, and moved to
dismiss as to others. See generally Defs.’
Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of their Mot. to Dismiss, ECF
No. 10-1 [hereinafter Mot. to Dismiss]. Their Partial Motion
to Dismiss is now ripe for consideration.
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
must accept the plaintiff’s factual allegations as true
and “construe the complaint ‘in favor of the
plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences
that can be derived from the facts alleged.’”
Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C.
Cir. 2012) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617
F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). The court need not accept as
true “a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation, ” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286 (1986), or “inferences . . . unsupported by the
facts set out in the complaint, ” Kowal v. MCI
Commc’ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible
“when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The factual
allegations in the complaint need not be
“detailed”; however, the Federal Rules demand
more than “an unadorned,
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). If the facts as alleged fail to ...