Yusuf v. Tjia: Landmark Human-Trafficking Verdict
An Indonesian businessman brought a woman to Los Angeles, where the businessman’s son and daughter-in-law put her to work as a domestic. According to the woman and evidence presented at trial, the son and his wife confiscated her passport, withheld pay, required her to work 16-hour days, and never permitted her to leave the house. She was subjected to verbal abuse, psychological coercion and told to lie to law enforcement.
Nonprofit poverty law firm Bet Tzedek Legal Services and O’Melveny & Myers LLP collaborated to argue the case.
A jury in Los Angeles Superior Court awarded $768,000, including $500,000 in punitive damages, to the victim, who brought suit under California’s civil human trafficking statute. The verdict is believed to be the first case adjudicated under the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
- Purpose of FolFry’s involvement was to publicize the groundbreaking verdict, to increase awareness of Bet Tzedek’s impact-litigation work, and to stimulate financial contributions and volunteerism.
- FolFry worked closely with client Bet Tzedek and O’Melveny & Myers to develop key message points about the decision.
- We drafted a news release, talking points, and question-and-answer documents; conducted extensive media outreach, coordinated interviews and compiled results.
- The Los Angeles Daily Journal named the case among the “Top Ten Impact Verdicts of 2009.” It has become reported case law and is studied by students and briefed in law journals.
- Bet Tzedek and O’Melveny & Myers received the 2010 Founders Award by The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST).
- The case spurred recognition of Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project, which formalizes its expertise in labor and employment law.
- Coverage included stories on the local ABC station, National Public Radio and its affiliate KPCC, plus several articles in legal and human-rights journals and publications.