Carazani v. Zegarra, Civil Action No. 12–107(RC).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRUDOLPH CONTRERAS
Citation972 F.Supp.2d 1
PartiesVirginia CARAZANI, Plaintiff, v. Emma ZEGARRA, Defendant.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 12–107(RC).
Decision Date03 July 2013

972 F.Supp.2d 1

Virginia CARAZANI, Plaintiff,
Emma ZEGARRA, Defendant.

Civil Action No. 12–107(RC).

United States District Court,
District of Columbia.

July 3, 2013.

[972 F.Supp.2d 9]

Julie M. Carpenter, Carrie F. Apfel, Jenner & Block LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Emma Zegarra, Vienna, VA, pro se.

Granting the Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment


The plaintiff, Virginia Carazani, a citizen of Bolivia, entered into a contract with the defendant, Emma Zegarra, to work as a housekeeper in the United States. The plaintiff alleges that once she moved to the United States, the defendant reneged on the contract and instead had the defendant work in her home for almost three years without pay. She now seeks damages pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (“TVPA”). 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (2008); 18 U.S.C. § 1595(a) (2008).

Despite the defendant's initial cooperation in this case, she has ignored a court-ordered Motion to Compel, failed to attend a court-ordered status hearing, and has been unresponsive to discovery requests since the filing of the April 27, 2012 Status Report. In response, the plaintiff has moved for the Court to enter default judgment against the defendant under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. SeeFed.R.Civ.P. 37.

Because the defendant has repeatedly failed to comply with court orders or cooperate in discovery, the Court grants Carazani's motion for sanctions, and enters default judgment against Zegarra. The Court awards damages accordingly.


For eight years prior to 2006, the plaintiff worked as the defendant's housekeeper in Bolivia. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. In 2006, when the defendant accepted a job at the World Bank in the United States, the plaintiff agreed to accompany her to work as her housekeeper in the United States. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. Before the parties moved, they signed an employment contract that stipulated to the following in English and Spanish: (1) the plaintiff would work forty hours, five days per week as a housekeeper from December 25, 2006 to December 25, 2008; (2) the defendant would pay the plaintiff either $7.08 per hour or the greater of the minimum wage and the applicable prevailing wage under U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) guidelines; (3) the defendant would pay the plaintiff overtime as required by state law; (4) the plaintiff would receive four holidays, five paid sick days, fifteen paid vacation days; (5) the defendant would make the plaintiff's tax payments; and (6) the defendant would provide the plaintiff and her dependents with meals, lodging, and medical insurance. See generally Pl.'s Supp'l Mot., [Dckt. # 17, Ex. A], (“Contract”).

The plaintiff worked between sixty-six and seventy-five hours, seven days per week over the course of three years. Am. Compl. ¶ 41, [Dckt. # 13]; Pl.'s Supp'l Wage Calculation, [Dckt. # 18]. In exchange,

[972 F.Supp.2d 10]

the defendant paid her the $8.50 necessary to keep her bank account open, a requirement under World Bank rules. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 39, 41. The plaintiff received no time off during this period except for four days while she was in the hospital, the expenses for which she paid with money provided by her family. Id. at ¶¶ 25–26.

Once the parties arrived in the United States, the defendant took the plaintiff's passport and papers and her son's legal papers, claiming the confiscation was to keep the documents safe. Id. at ¶ 22. The defendant also informed the plaintiff that she would be paid half of the contractual salary in order to pay for housing, food, and medical insurance, Pl.'s Supp'l Mot., [Dckt. # 17, Ex. A], (“Carazani Decl.”) ¶ 43, each of which was guaranteed at no cost to the plaintiff in the Contract. Contract §§ 8, 9. For the first year, the plaintiff worked 75 hour weeks from 6:30 AM until 9:00 PM with two short breaks each day. See Carazani Decl. ¶ 39. The plaintiff and her son lived in the basement, and occasionally the laundry room, of the defendant's house. See Carazani Decl. ¶ 41. Initially, the defendant told the plaintiff she would receive her reduced salary in a savings account. Id. at ¶ 44. Several months after arriving in the United States, the defendant told the plaintiff that she did not have enough money to pay the salary. Id. at ¶ 45. Ultimately, the defendant only paid the plaintiff the $8.50 necessary to keep her bank account open. Am. Compl. ¶ 40–41.

During her time with the defendant, the plaintiff incurred $35,849.33 in medical expenses under the belief that they would paid for by the medical insurance stipulated to in the contract. See Pl.'s Supp'l Mot., [Dckt. # 17, Ex. F], (“Medical Expenses”); Am. Compl. ¶ 26; Contract § 9. Among the larger expenses was a hospital visit by the plaintiff's son on April 24, 2007, the plaintiff's hospitalization for abdominal pain on February 25, 2008, and a second hospitalization of the plaintiff for an anxiety attack on October 22, 2008. See Carazani Decl. ¶¶ 50, 67, 75; Medical Expenses.

While the plaintiff, who only spoke Spanish, stayed with the defendant, the defendant forbade her to speak to anyone outside of the house. Id. at ¶ 27. The defendant emphasized that the plaintiff could not tell anyone that she was not being paid. Carazani Decl. ¶ 46. The defendant also told the plaintiff that the she could listen to the plaintiff's phone conversations by using a surveillance device from work. Am. Compl. at ¶ 29.

In 2008, the defendant failed to renew the plaintiff's visa, having not paid the plaintiff's employment taxes. Id. at ¶ 44. This forced the plaintiff to become an undocumented immigrant, which she claims increased her dependence on the defendant. Id. Alongside threats of deportation by the defendant and her daughter, the plaintiff believed that she would be deported if she did not continue to work for the defendant. Id. at ¶ 30. The plaintiff was ultimately able to escape from the defendant's home in 2009 with the assistance of a Good Samaritan and a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent. Id. at ¶ 5. On January 23, 2012, she filed this action against the defendant under the FLSA and TVPA. Id. at ¶ 6, 8.

After the plaintiff agreed to a time extension, the defendant filed an Answer on February 28, 2012. Answer, [Dckt. # 6]. On March 28, 2012, the parties participated in an Initial Scheduling Conference, during which this Court ordered the parties to exchange Initial Disclosures by April 20, 2012 and file a Status Report by April 27, 2012. Scheduling and Procedures Order, [Dckt. # 9]. Under the Status

[972 F.Supp.2d 11]

Report, the defendant agreed to amend pleadings or join additional parties by May 31, 2012, “exchange initial document requests and interrogatories” by June 29, 2012, respond to these initial requests by July 26, 2012, exchange requests for admission by August 20, 2012, exchange disclosures under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) and (C) by September 6, 2012, respond to requests for admission by September 20, 2012, complete all depositions and supplements to expert reports by September 20, 2012, and complete all discovery by September 28, 2012. Status Report, [Dckt. # 12]; Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(2)(B), (C). The plaintiff served the defendant with the first set of document requests and interrogatories on June 29, 2012 through U.S. mail and email. Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, [Dckt. # 14, Ex. D], (“Apfel Decl.”) ¶ 6.

After failing to receive the defendant's Initial Disclosure or response to discovery requests by their respective deadlines, the plaintiff's counsel sent two emails to the defendant inquiring about the status of her Initial Disclosure on May 7, 2012 and May 15, 2012 and two emails about the status of the discovery requests on August 3, 2012 and August 7, 2012. See Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, [Exs. B, E]. On August 9, 2012, the plaintiff's counsel called the defendant's work number. Apfel Decl. ¶ 8. The individual who answered the phone told the counsel that the defendant “no longer worked at the World Bank” and “was currently out of the country.” Id. The plaintiff's counsel then called one of the defendant's friends at the World Bank, who told her that the defendant “had left the country and had no intention of returning.” Id. at ¶ 9. The World Bank Human Resources Department told the plaintiff's counsel that the defendant “used to work there.” Id. at ¶ 10. Finally, the plaintiff's counsel called the defendant's home number on the same day and “received a recording that said that the number was no longer in service.” Id. at ¶ 11.

On August 21, 2012, the plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel and for an Immediate Status Conference. Pl.'s Mot. to Compel. On August 27, 2012, the Court granted the plaintiff's Motion in part and ordered a status conference to be held on September 14, 2012. The defendant ignored the Order by failing to appear at the September 14, 2012 status conference. The Court then granted the Motion in its entirety on September 14, 2012 and ordered the defendant to produce Initial Disclosures and Responses to Discovery Requests within one week of the Order. Pl's Mot. to Compel. The defendant disregarded this Order by failing to produce either Initial Disclosures or Responses to Discovery Requests within one week. On November 26, 2012, the Court ordered the parties to submit a Joint Status Report by December 14, 2012. The defendant disregarded this order by failing to file a Status Report. Instead, on December 12, 2012 the plaintiff alone filed a Status Report, indicating her belief that the defendant had fled to Bolivia. Pl.'s Status Report, [Dckt. # 16].

A. Legal Standard for Default Judgment

Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure declares that the Rules “should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 1 (emphasis added). In...

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