Civil Practice Clinic Wins $25,000 Civil Assault Verdict

January 18, 2017

A jury trial in southeastern Minnesota last week allowed a young immigrant woman to tell her story of labor exploitation and misery. The verdict shows that the jury of four men and three women believed her.

Samuel Ketchum (’17) and Aaron Minster (’17), student attorneys in the Law School’s Robins Kaplan Civil Practice Clinic—accompanied by supervising attorney and clinical professor Laura Thomas and co-counsel attorney David Wilson of Wilson Law Group—secured a $25,000 civil assault jury verdict in Houston County District Court on Friday, Jan. 13. The courtroom victory, which came after many years of litigation on behalf of the client, Daxaben Patel, and her entire family, is the result of hundreds of hours of work.

In addition to the current team, previous student attorneys on the case included Chris Schmitter (’13), Laura Populin (’14), Lindee Balgaard (’13), Jean Paul Agustin (’14), Adam Fitzpatrick (’14), Jaclyn Campoli (’14), Ryan Bravo (’15), Andrew LeTourneau (’15), Olivia Cooper (’16), and Dong Lee (’16). Attorney Britt Bakken (’13) at Wilson Law Group also contributed to the family-based immigration component of the case.

The case arose out of events that occurred between 2010 and 2012. In 2010, the defendants executed affidavits of support as part of a family-based immigration sponsorship process. A court ruling in March 2015 found that these affidavits formed a contract between the defendants and the United States, requiring the defendants to support Patel and her family members at 125% of the federal poverty guideline.   

At trial, the case team defeated defendants’ counterclaims against the family for breach of contract and implied contract.

In addition to the recent jury verdict and the immigration support judgment, the case team is finalizing a federal unpaid wages judgment against the corporate entity that owned the hotel in Caledonia, Minn., where the family was forced to work for nearly two years. 

Aaron Minster (’17), Professor Laura Thomas, Sam Ketchum (’17)
Aaron Minster (’17), Professor Laura Thomas, Sam Ketchum (’17)

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