This is the fifth in a series of posts summarizing the civil causes of action available under the PA Human Trafficking Statute. Thus far, I have addressed who can sue under the statute, who can be sued, and the powerful list of “nondefenses” provided within the statute. This post addresses the various types of civil damages that are recoverable under the statute.
The language of the PA Human Trafficking Statute provides that a victim may recover the following types of damages:
- Actual/compensatory damages;
- Punitive damages;
- Injunctive relief;
- Attorney fees and costs; and,
- Treble damages.
Actual/compensatory damages are the categories of damages most often associated with personal injury claims. This would include economic damages for items such as medical bills and lost wages, along with non-economic damages to compensate a victim for pain and suffering, embarrassment, humiliation, scarring, mental anguish, and other harms.
Punitive damages are aimed at punishing the defendant and require a victim to prove that the defendant acted in an intentional and outrageous manner or with reckless indifference to the rights of others. Along the same lines, treble damages are available when the victim proves that the defendant’s acts were willful or malicious. Under these circumstances, treble damages would allow a victim to recover three times the value of their actual damages.
Injunctive relief allows a victim to request a court order prohibiting a defendant from acting or behaving in a specified manner. Attorney fees and costs allow a prevailing victim to recover the fees and costs associated with retaining an attorney to represent the victim during the course of the lawsuit.
In summary, the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Statute provides for a wide array of civil damages with the dual intent of maximizing recovery for victims and providing a means for punishing bad actors involved in human trafficking and the sex trade. Punitive and treble damages will provide a powerful tool to empower victims and hold perpetrators accountable.