Docket – February 25, 2019

4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Roe v. Howard (P), 4th Cir. (King) from EDVA at Alexandria (O’Grady).

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s civil-remedy provision supports a $3 million award to a housekeeper who was sexually abused by the defendant and her husband while working for them overseas. The court properly held as much and also did not err in admitting testimonial evidence from a prior housekeeper, who the defendants had similarly abused.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in RJR Nabisco teaches that, even absent an express statement of extraterritoriality, a statute may apply to foreign conduct insofar as it clearly and directly incorporates a predicate statutory provision that applies extraterritorially. In this case, 18 U.S.C. § 1595 evinces a “clear indication of extraterritorial effect,” at least with respect to the conduct at issue here. That provision directly incorporates predicate offenses that govern foreign conduct, providing strong textual evidence of its extraterritorial effect when applied to those predicates. And the purpose, structure, history, and context of the Act militate toward the extraterritorial application of § 1595, to the extent that the relevant predicate offenses reach the challenged foreign conduct at issue.

The prior housekeeper’s testimony was also admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)’s exception to the general prohibition of character evidence. She described the defendant’s efforts to recruit her to work as the housekeeper and her knowledge and facilitation of her husband’s repeated sexual assaults. This testimony thus was highly probative evidence regarding the defendant’s intentions in her interactions with the plaintiff; the existence of a plan or pattern of behavior by the employers toward their live-in housekeepers; and the defendant’s knowledge of her husband’s abuse of their staff.


U.S. District Court – Virginia Eastern

No. 3:18cv687, Feb. 25, 2019. EDVA at Richmond (Novak).

The plaintiff plausibly alleges that its insurer breached its duty to defend the plaintiff and indemnify it for costs, claims, and expenses, including the settlement payout and attorneys’ fees associated with the plaintiff’s litigation against VCU Health System Authority.

Here, the parties’ agreement provided that the insurer had the right and duty to defend the plaintiff against any “suit” seeking covered damages. The underlying litigation concerned negligent actions by the plaintiff within the scope of the agreement. Allegations of intentional wrongdoing by the plaintiff are ambiguous, and under these circumstances ambiguity is construed in favor of the insured. The same reasoning applies to the insurer’s duty to indemnify the insured.

Motion for judgment on the pleadings denied.

Virginia Circuit Courts

Wallington v. Wallington, Fairfax (Ortiz).

In this divorce case, the couple was legally married despite initial circumstances of bigamy.

Although the parties’ marriage initially was void due to the wife’s prior marriage, applicable Texas law breaths life into a void marriage under certain conditions. Here, the wife divorced her prior spouse, and the parties continued living together and holding each other out as husband and wife for over 27 years.

The existence of the cured marriage is not repugnant to Virginia public policy, since the prior bigamy no longer exists. In any event, the parties’ marriage would be considered a common law marriage under the laws of Texas that Virginia would recognize.

Plea in bar denied.

Categories: Daily Dockets

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