In a pioneering human trafficking case brought in the Eastern District of Michigan federal court (Docket No. 2:15-cv-10724) by Nakisha Chaney of NachtLaw P.C, Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III this week entered a half-million-dollar judgment against Michigan psychiatrist Mamoun Dabbagh for his role in a human trafficking scheme. The landmark decision, described by Martina Vandenberg of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center as “a tremendous victory for human trafficking survivors,” concludes more than a year of contested litigation in which Plaintiff sought to hold Dr. Dabbagh accountable for providing prescriptions for pills that her trafficker used to forcibly drug her.
Relying on 18 U.S.C. § 1595, a relatively little known federal law that allows victims to sue anyone who knowingly financially benefits from participating in a human trafficking scheme, Plaintiff Jane Doe sued Dr. Dabbagh for helping her trafficker forcibly drug her with Adderall by providing prescriptions for pills. After a lengthy period of contested litigation and Dr. Dabbagh’s subsequent disappearance, the Court entered judgment against Dr. Dabbagh, ordering him to pay Plaintiff more than $500,000.00 in damages, fees and costs.
Notably, this is the first known civil judgment to hold a third-party facilitator liable under this theory of liability. Remarking on the importance of this judgment, Ms. Vandenberg observed, “This is an enormously significant judgment in a case that reflects the pioneering use of human trafficking laws to hold a third-party facilitator accountable . . . The judgment is a reminder that the survivor’s right to sue those who knowingly benefit from their participation in trafficking is a powerful weapon in combating and deterring human trafficking.”
Plaintiff’s attorney, Nakisha Chaney, praised the Court’s decision. “This is a landmark decision from the judge and a victory for human trafficking survivors. Human trafficking cannot exist on the scope on which it does without help from facilitators, who, for profit or personal benefit, lend their services and resources to human traffickers while turning a blind eye to the fact that they are supporting the commodification of human beings for sex and labor. State and federal laws that allow survivors to go after people who facilitate and participate with traffickers for financial or other benefits are a critical tool in combating human trafficking. Such laws raise the legal and financial stakes for people who think that they are shielded from liability because they are not trafficking people themselves. The law worked as it should in this case and Dr. Dabbagh was held legally accountable. I especially thank Judge Murphy for his impartial consideration and for rightly bringing this difficult case to a just and prompt resolution.”
Click here for a copy of the judgment.
Martina Vandenberg, who is quoted herein, is President of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center. She can be reached at 202.716.8485.
For information or questions concerning this post, readers may contact the author Nakisha Chaney