Northern District Awards $618,812.82 in Compensatory Damages and Punitive Damages in Case Involving Labor Code and Human Trafficking Allegations

The Northern District granted a default judgment in a human trafficking and Labor Code case.  Canal v. Dann, No. 09-03366 CW, 2010 WL 3491136 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 2, 2010) (slip op.).

Plaintiff Zoraida Peña Cenal alleged that from July, 2006 to April, 2008, Peña Canal worked for Defendant Dann for fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, caring for Defendant’s three young children and cooking and cleaning for the household. Id. For all of this work, plaintiff alleged that Defendant paid Peña Canal only once: on Christmas day in 2006, Defendant gave Peña Canal $100. Id. *1

After Peña Canal escaped from Defendant, the U.S. Attorney charged Dann with five counts: forced labor, unlawful use of documents in furtherance of servitude, harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain, visa fraud and conspiracy to commit visa fraud.  Id. *2.  A jury convicted Dann on all counts, and the criminal court sentenced her to sixty months in prison and three years of supervised release, and ordered her to pay $123,740.34 in restitution. Id. The restitution amount was based upon the government’s calculation, which was derived from data submitted from the federal government’s Foreign Labor Certification Program, as evidence of the value of Peña Canal’s labor during the period at issue. Id.

In the civil case, Plaintiff moved for entry of a default judgment against Defendants Mabelle de la Rosa Dann and Teresa Vittet de la Rosa. Id. *1.  Defendants did not appear or file an opposition to the motion.


The court determined that Peña Canal was entitled to an award of compensatory damages, consisting of both the value of her wages and additional damages attributable to the tortious conduct she endured.  The court concluded that Peña Canal had submitted persuasive evidence that a fair hourly wage for her work was $23.70. Id. *3.  The court assumed this hourly wage, and including applicable penalties under the California Labor Code, concluded that Dann owes Peña Canal $340,746.75. And “[b]ecause Peña Canal worked for Vittet de la Rosa from July to mid-September of 2006, Vittet de la Rosa is jointly and severally liable for the wages during that time period, $22,858.65.” Id. The Court also awarded $92,400 in compensatory damages for the emotional distress and other tort damages caused by Dann.

The court also found that Dann acted with a conscious disregard for Peña Canal’s right to be free from involuntary servitude and she intentionally misrepresented facts for the purpose of depriving her of this right.  Id. The court thus awarded a punitive damages award in an “amount equal to her compensatory damages . . . in light of Dann’s disregard of Peña Canal’s basic rights.” Id.

For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants Peña Canal’s motion for default judgment against Defendants Mabelle de la Rosa Dann and Teresa Vittet de la Rosa. The Court awards Peña Canal $618,812.82 in damages.

The court also awarded reasonable attorneys fees.

Judges and Attorneys

District Judge Claudia Wilken.


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