Attorneys Warren W. Harris of Walter A. Simons of Bracewell LLP and Peter J. Flowers of Meyers & Flowers successfully obtained a victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which resulted in the reversal of a dismissed lawsuit for their client, Deanna Rose and her daughter G.G, a victim of child sex trafficking. The Seventh Circuit panel ruled that the Illinois federal court wrongly tossed G.G.’s lawsuit against Salesforce, who knew or should've known that their client, Backpage.com, was facilitating the sex trafficking of minors and can thus be held civilly liable.
In 2016, G.G. ran away from home at the age of 13, where she was picked up by a sex trafficker, who used Backpage.com to advertise and repeatedly sell her into prostitution. While Rose was searching for her daughter, she found photos of G.G. in an escort listing on Backpage. Rose quickly notified the site that G.G. was a minor, but Backpage left the listing up.
Backpage was one of the most notorious sex-trafficking websites in the country. Years after the site had gained that reputation, Salesforce entered into a contract with them. Salesforce didn't just provide its standard software for Backpage, they even developed software specifically for them. Their business relationship was lasting and successful and only came to an end when Backpage was shut down by the federal government.
In 2022, the district court tossed the suit, stating that the alleged facts showed Salesforce was entitled to protection under Section 1595 of the federal civil remedies law and that the suit failed to allege a plausible claim under the federal law.
However, the majority of the 7th Circuit panel ruled that the viable claim had "more than met their burden" to show that Salesforce at least should have known its client Backpage was engaged in an illegal sex-trafficking venture and that Salesforce had knowingly benefited from the venture. U.S. Circuit Judges David Hamilton and Doris Pryor said Salesforce went "two bridges too far" by arguing that liability to a sex-trafficking victim should stem from a company's specific knowledge of that victim.
Under Section 1595 of the federal civil remedies law victims are allowed to recover damages from both traffickers as well as an entity or individual who "knowingly benefits" from participating in a venture they knew or should've known was involved in sex trafficking. And victims are allowed to bring a civil action under Section 1591 of the act. "Plaintiffs have more than met their burden under this standard, alleging facts tending to show with greater specificity than is required at this stage that Salesforce at least should have known the nature of Backpage's business," the Seventh Circuit said.
“We are very pleased that the Seventh Circuit ruled that our clients abundantly pleaded a claim against Salesforce and that the dismissal of the claim was wrongful” said Peter J. Flowers. “We look forward to our clients having their day in court.” The victim and her mother are represented by Warren W. Harris and Walter A. Simons of Bracewell LLP and Peter J. Flowers of Meyers & Flowers LLC.
This case is the latest example of the team of Illinois Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Meyers & Flowers’ ability and willingness to fight for their clients at every level of the judicial system. Their efforts earned them a reputation as a legal team that will ensure their client’s claims are resolved fairly and properly no matter the obstacles that need to be overcome to reach a just resolution. If you or someone you know has been injured by the actions of others, we want to hear from you. Call us 24/7 at 630-576-9696 for your free, no obligation case evaluation or click here.