Plaintiff Winfred Muchira, a 35-year old Kenyan woman who accompanied a Saudi Arabian family to the U.S. in 2012 to work as a housemaid while three members of the family attended school here, sued the family in federal court more than a year and three months after leaving their employ, claiming that they violated federal human trafficking, forced labor, and enslavement laws. Ms. Muchira sought substantial compensation and punitive damages for those violations and on claims of false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, unjust enrichment, and failure to pay minimum wage.
Such civil human trafficking cases have become increasingly common, and jury verdicts on behalf of domestic workers have ranged as high as $3 million. The Saudi Arabian family vigorously denied Ms. Muchira’s allegations. On Wednesday, April 15, 2015, Judge Anthony Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria) issued a 31-page opinion, dismissing Ms. Muchira’s human trafficking, forced labor, enslavement, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, based largely on Ms. Muchira’s own deposition testimony.
The case bears some similarity to a 2013 California criminal case, in which a Saudi Arabian princess was arrested and her passport confiscated on charges of human trafficking brought by her domestic worker, a Kenyan woman, only to be exonerated later when the District Attorney concluded that the charges were groundless. Ms. Muchira is represented pro bono by WilmerHale, one of the largest law firms in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The Saudi Arabian family is represented by Potomac Law Group, PLLC, led by PLG Partner Neil Koslowe. The team also includes Potomac Law attorneys Luisa Caro, Doug Gleason, Jay McDannell, Erica Mueller, and Kevin Stogner.