August 23, 2013

After a review of the evidence, a federal court today ordered the Nepali human trafficking case against Houston, Texas-based U.S. defense contractor KBR and its Jordanian subcontractor Daoud & Partners to proceed to trial.  A trial date has been set for April 14, 2014. Lead plaintiffs counsel is Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.

The case involves 12 Nepali men, ages 18 to 27, who in 2004 were promised safe jobs in Jordan, but were instead involuntarily transported to Iraq.  Eleven of the men were captured and killed by insurgents on the way to the U.S. Air Force base where they were to work. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleged that KBR knowingly violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.   The Court denied KBR’s motion that argued the plaintiffs did not have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

In his order, Judge Keith Ellison, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, wrote, “the proffered evidence shows that each man was deceived about his promised job; each man was promised a hotel-related job in Jordan; each man’s family took on significant debt in order to pay recruitment fees; when the men arrived in Jordan, they were subject to threats and harm; their passports were confiscated; and the men were locked into a compound and threatened.”

Judge Ellison further wrote, “Plaintiffs have presented evidence that could lead a jury reasonably to find that the passport holding was coercive. Because this proffered evidence raises a genuine issue of material fact as to the existence of forced labor or trafficking, it is an issue of fact that
should be submitted to the jury.”

“This brings justice one step closer for the survivor and the families of those who died as a result of the human trafficking,” said the plaintiffs’  lead attorney Agnieszka Fryszman, of Cohen Milstein. “The families are looking forward to proving their case at trial.” 
The case is among the first filed against a corporation under the Trafficking Victim Protection Act. Fryszman filed Ramchandra Adhikari, et al. v. Daoud & Partners, et al. in 2008 in the U.S. on behalf of the 11 families of those killed and the surviving laborer. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation for the plaintiffs’ losses.  The men came from poor families that went into debt to seek work abroad, and the families of the men killed were forced deeper into poverty when their sons and husbands were killed, says Fryszman.

In addition to Fryszman, the plaintiffs are represented by Paul L. Hoffman of Schonbrun, Desimone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman LLP of Venice, Calif, and Anthony DiCaprio of New York.