Fish & Richardson Wins $1.43 Million For Sex Trafficking Survivor in Pro Bono Civil Suit

Fish & Richardson has won a $1.43 million award on behalf of plaintiff Jose Alfaro, a teen survivor of sex trafficking. Alfaro, who had been forced to leave his childhood home after revealing to his parents that he was gay, met the defendant, Jason Daniel Gandy, online. Gandy offered Alfaro a place to stay but, when Alfaro moved in, Gandy had him participate in a "massage" business and engage in sexual acts with male clients.

In 2014, after escaping and later learning that Gandy had been arrested for a separate child sex crime, Alfaro contacted the National Trafficking Hotline and provided a witness statement. Upon learning more about his legal rights from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Alfaro decided to pursue a civil lawsuit under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. In the criminal case, Gandy was found guilty of sex trafficking of minors, sexual exploitation of children, transportation of minors, and transportation of child pornography. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Fish attorneys stepped in to represent Alfaro and dedicated nearly 200 pro bono hours to the civil case, Jose Alfaro v. Jason Daniel Gandy, arguing that Alfaro experienced severe emotional and psychological pain due to Gandy's exploitation and that Alfaro continued to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. The firm won the case on summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on March 14, 2019, and the court awarded $1,436,409 in compensatory and punitive damages on April 24, 2019. The large amount of damages awarded to Alfaro in this type of case is rare.

"We are thrilled to have achieved such a substantial victory and significant award for our client," said Lawrence Kolodney, Pro Bono Chair at Fish & Richardson. "We admire Jose's courage and fortitude in pursuing this case, and hope it will encourage other trafficking survivors to come forward and hold perpetrators accountable for their egregious actions. We look forward to continuing our work in this important area," added Andrew Kopsidas, the Fish principal who led the trial team.

The case was referred to Fish by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and the Human Trafficking Legal Center. The Fish team included principal Andrew Kopsidas and associates Bethany Mihalik and Alex Kykta. Also assisting on the case were senior principal DJ Healey, principal Jayme Partridge, and associate Bailey Benedict.

The Human Trafficking Legal Center works to provide every survivor of human trafficking access to justice through a talented pro bono lawyer, with the goal of holding traffickers accountable for their crimes through civil litigation and criminal restitution.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. is the state's largest provider of free legal services with a mission to promote dignity, self-sufficiency, safety, and access to justice for low-income Texans by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.