US judge rules that Cambodian victims of trafficking lawsuit against seafood importers can go to trial

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Article
10 November 2016

California Federal Court Rules That Human Trafficking Lawsuit Against Walmart Suppliers Should Proceed

Author: Cohen Milstein

A California federal court judge ruled today that a human trafficking lawsuit against four companies, all of which supply seafood to retail giant Walmart, can proceed. The civil lawsuit, first filed in June, was brought on behalf of seven plaintiffs who were recruited from their home villages in rural Cambodia to work at factories in Thailand producing shrimp and seafood for export to the United States. Instead of the good jobs at good wages they were promised, the five men and two women allegedly became victims of human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude and peonage. The defendants had filed a motion in August asking Judge John F. Walter to dismiss the suit; that motion was denied this afternoon.

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Article
10 November 2016

Judge rules human trafficking lawsuit against Walmart shrimp suppliers can go to trial

Author: Ola Wietecha, Undercurrent News (UK)

A lawsuit against two US and two Thai firms that allegedly engaged in human trafficking as they supplied shrimp to retailers including Walmart can proceed to trial, a judge ruled. The civil lawsuit, brought in California federal court by seven Cambodians employed outside the US, accused the four companies of violating the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act and knowingly profiting from the villagers' working conditions. In August, the four companies -- US-based importers Rubicon Resources and Wales & Co. Universe, and Thai seafood companies Phatthana Seafood Co. Ltd. and S.S. Frozen Food Co. Ltd. – filed a motion in mid-August to dismiss the case arguing that because the alleged conduct took place outside the US, the matter shouldn't be heard in a US court.  Walmart, while referenced in a press release describing the matter, is not named in the lawsuit as defendant.  The suit states that the Cambodian villagers paid high recruitment fees but at the Thai factory were "paid less than promised and that their already meager wages would be further reduced by unexpected salary deductions for housing, fees, and other charges."...The defendants argued that the "extraterritorial reach of the [Trafficking Victims Protection Act] extends only to criminal actions brought by the federal government, and not to private plaintiffs"..."Plaintiffs ask this court to construe the [Trafficking Victims Protection Act] to impose liability on any US company that “benefits” from doing business with foreign companies in parts of the world that have arguably suspect labor practices. If plaintiffs are right, then the litigation floodgates would open, since virtually every US company benefits from international commerce," the filing said.

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