(a) A victim of human trafficking, as defined in Section 236.1 of the Penal Code, may bring a civil action for actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, any combination of those, or any other appropriate relief. A prevailing plaintiff may also be awarded attorney’s fees and costs.
(b) In addition to the remedies specified in this section, in an action under subdivision (a), the plaintiff may be awarded up to three times his or her actual damages or ten thousand dollars ($10,000), whichever is greater. In addition, punitive damages may be awarded upon proof of the defendant’s malice, oppression, fraud, or duress in committing the act of human trafficking.
(c) An action brought pursuant to this section shall be commenced within seven years of the date on which the trafficking victim was freed from the trafficking situation or, if the victim was a minor when the act of human trafficking against the victim occurred, within 10 years after the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority.
(d) If a person entitled to sue is under a disability at the time the cause of action accrues so that it is impossible or impracticable for him or her to bring an action, the time of the disability is not part of the time limited for the commencement of the action. Disability will toll the running of the statute of limitations for this action.
(1) Disability includes being a minor, lacking legal capacity to make decisions, imprisonment, or other incapacity or incompetence.
(2) The statute of limitations shall not run against a plaintiff who is a minor or who lacks the legal competence to make decisions simply because a guardian ad litem has been appointed. A guardian ad litem’s failure to bring a plaintiff’s action within the applicable limitation period will not prejudice the plaintiff’s right to bring an action after his or her disability ceases.
(3) A defendant is estopped from asserting a defense of the statute of limitations when the expiration of the statute is due to conduct by the defendant inducing the plaintiff to delay the filing of the action, or due to threats made by the defendant causing the plaintiff duress.
(4) The suspension of the statute of limitations due to disability, lack of knowledge, or estoppel applies to all other related claims arising out of the trafficking situation.
(5) The running of the statute of limitations is postponed during the pendency of criminal proceedings against the victim.
(e) The running of the statute of limitations may be suspended if a person entitled to sue could not have reasonably discovered the cause of action due to circumstances resulting from the trafficking situation, such as psychological trauma, cultural and linguistic isolation, and the inability to access services.
(f) A prevailing plaintiff may also be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs including, but not limited to, expert witness fees and expenses as part of the costs.
(g) Restitution paid by the defendant to the victim shall be credited against a judgment, award, or settlement obtained pursuant to an action under this section. A judgment, award, or settlement obtained pursuant to an action under this section is subject to Section 13963 of the Government Code.
(h) A civil action filed under this section shall be stayed during the pendency of any criminal action arising out of the same occurrence in which the claimant is the victim. As used in this section, a “criminal action” includes investigation and prosecution, and is pending until a final adjudication in the trial court or dismissal.
(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 86, Sec. 18. (SB 1171) Effective January 1, 2017.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018