Ratha v. Phatthana Seafood Co.

Decision Date25 February 2022
Docket NumberNo. 18-55041,18-55041
Citation26 F.4th 1029
Parties Keo RATHA; Sem Kosal; Sophea Bun; Yem Ban; Nol Nakry; Phan Sophea; Sok Sang, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. PHATTHANA SEAFOOD CO., LTD.; S.S. Frozen Food Co., Ltd. ; Rubicon Resources, LLC; Wales and Co. Universe Ltd., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Paul Hoffman (argued) and Catherine Sweetser, Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes LLP, Los Angeles, California; Agnieszka M. Fryszman, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Washington, D.C.; Dan Stormer, Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP, Pasadena, California; Anthony DiCaprio, Rye, New York; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Bryan D. Daly (argued), Charles Lawrence Kreindler, and Barbara E. Taylor, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Defendants-Appellees.

William J. Aceves, California Western School of Law, San Diego, California, for Amicus Curiae Human Rights and Development Foundation.

Scott A. Gilmore and Carmen K. Cheung, Center for Justice and Accountability, San Francisco, California; Beth Van Schaack, Stanford University, Stanford, California; Ralph G. Steinhardt, George Washington University School of Law, Washington, D.C.; for Amicus Curiae Center for Justice and Accountability.

Eli Naduris-Weissman, Rothner Segall & Greenstone, Pasadena, California, for Amici Curiae Solidarity Center, International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, International Labor Recruitment Working Group, and EarthRights International.

Anne M. Voigts, King & Spalding LLP, Palo Alto, California; Amelia G. Yowell, King & Spalding LLP, Washington, D.C.; for Amici Curiae Freedom Network USA, Human Trafficking Legal Center, Public Counsel, Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Arkansas School of Law, Civil Litigation and Advocacy Clinic at the University of Arkansas School of Law, Professor Janie Chuang, and Professor David Abramowitz.

Robert A. DeHaan, McLean, Virginia, for Amicus Curiae National Fisheries Institute.

Before: Marsha S. Berzon, Ryan D. Nelson, and Bridget S. Bade, Circuit Judges.

BADE, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs-Appellants are Cambodian villagers who allege that they were trafficked into Thailand and subjected to forced labor at seafood processing factories. Plaintiffs allege that Thai companies perpetrated these offenses, and that companies present in the United States knowingly benefitted from their forced labor. Plaintiffs brought their claims under 18 U.S.C. § 1595,1 the civil remedy provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act ("TVPA"), as reauthorized and amended in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.2

We are asked to determine the extraterritorial reach of § 1595 and to construe the terms of that provision. We assume without deciding that § 1595 may apply extraterritorially and conclude that Plaintiffs did not present a triable issue on the requirements for such application or on the merits of their claims. Therefore, the district court properly entered summary judgment against Plaintiffs. We also conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiffs' motion for an extension of time to respond to Defendants' motions for summary judgment. We affirm.


In 2000, Congress enacted the TVPA "to ‘combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims.’ " Ditullio v. Boehm , 662 F.3d 1091, 1094 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Pub. L. No. 106-386, § 102, 114 Stat. 1464 (2000) (codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1589 – 1592 )). By enacting this statute, "Congress created several new federal criminal offenses intended to more comprehensively and effectively combat human trafficking." Roe v. Howard , 917 F.3d 229, 236 (4th Cir. 2019).

In 2003, Congress reauthorized and amended the TVPRA, adding a civil remedy provision codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1595. See Ditullio , 662 F.3d at 1094. Initially, that provision provided civil remedies only for violations of § 1589 (forced labor), § 1590 (trafficking), and § 1591 (sex trafficking of children). See Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-193, § 4(a)(4)(A), 117 Stat. 2875 (2003). But in 2008, Congress again reauthorized the TVPRA and amended it to expand the civil remedies provision, which now provides:

An individual who is a victim of a violation of this chapter may bring a civil action against the perpetrator (or whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has engaged in an act in violation of this chapter) in an appropriate district court of the United States and may recover damages and reasonable attorneys fees.

18 U.S.C. § 1595(a) (providing a civil remedy for the offenses listed in Title 18, Chapter 77, "Peonage, Slavery, and Trafficking in Persons"); see Ditullio , 662 F.3d at 1094 n.1.

The 2008 amendments also added § 1596, which authorizes extraterritorial application for specific sections of the TVPRA. See 18 U.S.C. § 1596(a) ; William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-457, § 223(a), 122 Stat. 5044 (2008). This provision, entitled "Additional jurisdiction in certain trafficking offenses," provides:

(a) In general. In addition to any domestic or extra-territorial jurisdiction otherwise provided by law, the courts of the United States have extra-territorial jurisdiction over any offense (or any attempt or conspiracy to commit an offense) under section 1581, 1583, 1584, 1589, 1590, or 1591 if—
(1) an alleged offender is a national of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence (as those terms are defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act ( 8 U.S.C. 1101 )); or
(2) an alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the alleged offender.

18 U.S.C. § 1596(a). As a result of the 2008 amendments, the TVPRA now extends extraterritorial application to violations of § 1581 (peonage), § 1583 (enticement into slavery), § 1584 (sale into involuntary servitude), § 1589 (forced labor), § 1590 (trafficking), and § 1591 (sex trafficking of children), but only if the alleged offender is a United States citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or is present in the United States. See id.


In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that they were the victims of peonage, forced labor, involuntary servitude, and human trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1581, 1584, 1589, 1590, 1592, and 1593A, and they sought damages under § 1595, the civil remedy provision of the TVPRA. Plaintiffs further alleged that Defendants-Appellees Phatthana Seafood Co., Ltd. ("Phatthana") and S.S. Frozen Food Co., Ltd. ("S.S. Frozen") perpetrated these offenses, and that Defendants-Appellees Rubicon Resources, LLC ("Rubicon") and Wales & Co. Universe Ltd. ("Wales") knowingly benefitted from Phatthana's and S.S. Frozen's unlawful conduct.

Specifically, Plaintiffs say that they were recruited from their villages to work in factories in Thailand producing shrimp and seafood for export to the United States. Plaintiffs were promised well-paying jobs with free accommodations, but once in Thailand, they became victims of peonage, forced labor, and involuntary servitude. Plaintiffs were paid less than promised, charged for accommodations, charged for other unexpected expenses, unable to leave without their passports, which they were told would not be returned until "recruitment fee[s]" and other amounts were paid, and subjected to harsh conditions. Plaintiffs asserted that these abuses occurred from sometime in 2010 until October 2012. Phatthana's seafood processing factory in Songkhla province, where six of the seven Plaintiffs worked, began operations in August 2010. The seventh Plaintiff, Keo Ratha, worked at an S.S. Frozen seafood processing factory from October 2011 to January 2012.

Phatthana and S.S. Frozen are foreign companies. Phatthana is a Thai company that owned two seafood processing factories in Thailand, including the factory in Songkhla province.3 Phatthana does not have an address, employees, factories, or other property in the United States. Phatthana had business relationships with Rubicon and Wales, which we describe in more detail below.

S.S. Frozen is also a Thai company and it owned a seafood processing factory in Songkhla province, next to Phatthana's Songkhla factory. S.S. Frozen does not have an address or employees in the United States, and it did not sell any seafood in the United States during the period at issue—August 2010 to October 2012. Unlike Phatthana, S.S. Frozen did not have any business relationships with Rubicon or Wales.

Rubicon is a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in California. Rubicon sought to import shrimp from Phatthana's Songkhla seafood processing factory into the United States. Rubicon coordinated sales and marketing, visited and conducted pre-audits of Phatthana's factories, and arranged for import and shipping of Phatthana's product. But Rubicon did not own any factories, and it did not recruit employees for Phatthana.

In October 2011, Rubicon ordered fourteen containers of shrimp from Phatthana's Songkhla factory for distribution to Walmart. Walmart rejected the shipment because it had concerns about working conditions in the factory. Rubicon returned the shrimp to Thailand. It did not successfully sell any shrimp from Phatthana's Songkhla factory in the United States during the period at issue in this case.

Wales is a Thai company registered to conduct business in California. Wales performs quality control, sales,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT