Roe v. Howard (P)

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.


Roe v. Howard (P), No. 17-2338, Feb. 25, 2019. 4th Cir. (King) from EDVA at Alexandria (O’Grady).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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