United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Court Judge
Christine Ekalliipse Mouloki filed a nine-count Complaint
seeking relief for the childcare she provided Defendants
Marie Paule Epee and Eric Ngado Epee after she moved to the
United States from Cameroon. The Epees move for leave to file
an Amended Answer to the Complaint and for partial summary
judgment. For the below reasons, the Court denies the
Epees' Motion for Leave to File Amended Answer to
Complaint  and the Court grants in part and denies in
part the Epees' Partial Motion for Summary Judgment.
parties do not dispute the below facts unless otherwise
Christine Ekalliipse Mouloki (“Mouloki”) was born
in 1965 in Douala, Cameroon. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 9.) She did not
attend college or obtain any kind of higher education. (Dkt.
149, ¶ 1.) She cannot speak or read English
well. (Id., ¶ 12.)
Eric Ngando Epee (“Mr. Epee”) was born and raised
in Cameroon and later moved to France to pursue his
education. (Dkt. 143-5, at 4, 13:1-11.) Defendant Marie Paule
Epee (“Mrs. Epee”) was born and studied in
France, but she has family in Cameroon and lived there for a
period. (See Dkt. 149-1, at 1-2, 11:1-12:23; Dkt.
149-6, at 5, 99:16-19; Dkt. 143-4, at 3, 9:10-10:3.) The
Epees, who are married to each other, are both U.S. citizens.
(Dkt. 143, ¶ 7; Dkt. 143-4, at 7, 40:22-25.) Mrs. Epee
has a Bachelor's Degree in business and took evening
classes to earn her degree in early childhood development.
(Dkt. 149-1, at 2-3, 12:3-13:2; Dkt. 149-2, at 3, 23:13-20;
Dkt. 149-2, at 6, 26:1-3.) Mr. Epee earned his Master's
in Business Administration in a full-time program at Duke
University and then obtained a job working for United
Airlines, which brought him to Chicago. (Dkt. 143-5, at 4-5,
Epee traveled to Cameroon in December 2000. (Dkt. 149-2, at
2, 22:10-15.) Mouloki was living in Cameroon working as a
nanny at the time of the Epees' visits. (Dkt. 1,
¶¶ 10-11; Dkt. 149-6, at 5, 99:4-5; Dkt. 149-3, at
6, 70:3-5.) Mouloki says that she cared for the Epees'
children during their 2-3 week vacations to Cameroon in 2000
and 2001,  and they paid her money for doing
(Dkt. 149, at 2, ¶ 3; Dkt. 149-2, at 10, 30:2-19; Dkt.
149-3, at 6, 70:3-5.) The Epees have two children, Kenny and
Kimberly. (Dkt. 1, ¶¶ 13-14.) Mouloki has two
children of her own, Ntone Vincent Jacque-Oliver, who was
born in 1983, and Sicke Hermine Yoolande, who was born in
1989. (Id., ¶ 10.)
says that the Epees asked her around that time to travel to
the United States in order to work as their nanny; Mrs. Epee
says that Mouloki came to live with the Epees after Mrs.
Epee's mother called her and said that Mouloki needed
some temporary help. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 4; Dkt. 149-2, at
10-11, 30:20-31:1.) Mouloki says that Mrs. Epee promised her
good pay, housing,  help obtaining legal immigration status,
and assured her that if she came to the United States she
could return home to Cameroon after three years of service
once Mrs. Epee gave birth to all of her children. (Dkt.
143-1, ¶ 3; Dkt. 143-3, at 30, 57:16-24; Dkt. 149,
¶¶ 4-5, 8.) Mrs. Epee says that she and Mouloki
never had any sort of agreement, let alone an employment
agreement. (Dkt. 149-4, at 12, 55:10-18; Dkt. 149-5, at 3,
100:8-10.) She and Mrs. Epee never discussed specific
numerical wages. (Dkt. 143, ¶ 19.) Mouloki never
discussed any terms, tasks, salary, or wages with Mr. Epee.
(Id. at ¶¶16-18.) In any case, Mr. and
Mrs. Epee never threatened Mouloki or her family in order to
make her come to the United States. (Id. at
the terms, Mouloki ultimately moved to the United States,
though the Parties dispute the Epees' role in helping her
get here. Mouloki contends that Mrs. Epee coordinated her
travel to the United States, including procuring a French
passport from Mr. Epee's cousin for Mouloki to use. (Dkt.
143-3, at 27-29, 54:11-56:6; Dkt. 149, ¶ 7.) She arrived
in Chicago on May 8, 2002 and Mr. Epee picked her up from the
airport. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 9.) Mouloki says that Mr. Epee
took the passport back upon her arrival and that Mrs. Epee
eventually took the passport back to France. (Id. at
¶ 10; Dkt. 143-3, at 29-30, 56:17-57:4.) Defendants gave
Mouloki a brief tour of Schaumburg, Illinois, where they
lived. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 11.) They did not explain to Mouloki
how to contact the police or fire department. (Id.
at ¶ 11.) Regardless, Defendants state that they
“were not involved in assisting with [Mouloki's]
travel from Cameroon to the United States.” (Dkt.
143-8, at 4, Interrogatory No. 6.)
her arrival in May 2002 until her departure from Chicago on
December 9, 2007, Mouloki, Mr. Epee, and Mrs. Epee all
resided together at the Epee household in Schaumburg,
Illinois. (Dkt. 143, ¶ 8.) Once in the Epee household,
Mouloki cared for the Epee children and did household chores,
typically working from at least 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and
sometimes waking up in the middle of the night to care for
the children. (Dkt. 149, ¶¶ 13, 23; Dkt.
143-5, at 15, 93:1-9.) When Mouloki requested one day off per
week, Defendants refused. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 17.) Mr. and Mrs.
Epee never discussed work hours with Mouloki. (Dkt. 143,
¶¶ 20-21.) Mouloki stayed in a bedroom with the two
Epee children and slept on a twin mattress on top of a bed
base while the children shared a bunk bed. (Dkt. 143-8, at 5,
Interrogatory No. 11; Dkt. 149, ¶ 18.)
this time, Defendants did not ask Mouloki to pay rent or
pitch in for food. (Dkt. 149-4, at 12, 55:5-9.) Defendants
gave Mouloki cash, food, and clothes. Mouloki states that at first
she was not given money but over time the Epees began
providing her $50 each month and later that amount was
increased to approximately $350 per month. (Dkt. 149, ¶
20.) Mouloki claims that this cash equated to less than $1.00
per hour although she disputes that she was ever
“paid.” (Id.) None of the parties
memorialized in writing how much money the Epees gave to
Mouloki. (Dkt. 143, ¶¶ 22-25.)
December 2007, Mouloki gave Mr. Epee approximately $600 to
hold onto for her. (Dkt. 143-8, at 4, Interrogatory No. 7;
Dkt. 149-7, at 2-3, 121:1-122:3.) Mouloki gave Mr. Epee money
to hold onto via Mrs. Epee when she had the funds to do so
because she believed based on Mrs. Epee's comments that
Mr. Epee had a bank account available where he could set the
money aside for Mouloki to take with her when she
left. (Dkt. 143-1, at 6, ¶ 10; Dkt. 149,
¶ 21.) He did not give her the money back. (Dkt. 149-7,
at 4, 123:1-3; Dkt. 149, ¶ 22.) The parties dispute
whether Mouloki ever demanded the money back from Mr. Epee.
(Dkt. 149, ¶ 37; Dkt. 149-7, at 4, 123:1-6.) Mouloki
says that once when she asked Mrs. Epee for her money, Mrs.
Epee told her that she would never see that money again and
that it would be used to pay for Mouloki's return fare to
Cameroon. (Dkt. 149, at 7, ¶ 21; Dkt. 143-1, at 6,
¶ 10.) Over the course of what became more than five
years, Mr. Epee was aware that Mouloki lived in his home,
cared for his children for long hours each day, and slept on
a mattress on top of a bed base in his children's
room. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 23.)
says that during her years with the Epees they isolated her
from others and did not permit her to leave the residence as
she pleased. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 24.) Defendants point out that
Mouloki was permitted to attend Epee family gatherings and
that she kept her own acquaintances in Illinois.
(Id. at ¶ 24.) Mouloki says that she
“knew some people” but they were not friends.
(Dkt. 149-9, at 3, 100:5-10.) Specifically, she knew two
people, Bernadette and Flo, who babysat for friends of Mrs.
Epee. (Dkt. 149-9, at 3-4, 100:11-101:12.) They “would
get together at the barbecues” and “have sympathy
for each other.” (Id. at 4, 101:7-9.) Mouloki
could come and go from the household when the Epees went on
vacation and did not bring her with them. (Dkt. 143,
¶¶ 27-28.) While she lived with the Epees, Mouloki
had a cell phone that she kept in her possession.
(Id. at ¶ 29.) Sometimes, she held onto a set
of keys to the Epee house. (Id. at ¶ 26.)
Sometimes she even took the bus to the mall on her own and
left the house to do things without the Epees. (Id.
at ¶¶ 30-31.)
when Mouloki asked the Epees if she could return home to
Cameroon when her sister became ill in 2006. (Dkt. 143-1,
¶ 12; Dkt. 149, ¶ 28.) Defendants refused, and
Mouloki did not get to see her sister again before her sister
died. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 28.)
first several years, Mouloki did not have a physical
encounter with either of the Epees. (Dkt. 143, ¶ 40.)
Then one day in 2006, Mrs. Epee pushed Mouloki and pulled her
by the shirt. (Id. at ¶ 38; Dkt. 143-3,
at 37-39, 64:23-66:7.) Mouloki had to go down the staircase,
ostensibly to balance herself, but did not fall. (Dkt. 143-3,
at 38-39, 65:24-66:5.) Mrs. Epee raised her hand up to hit
Mouloki. (Dkt. 143, ¶¶ 39-40; Dkt. 14-3, at 39,
66:7-9.) Mouloki said, “[I]f you hit me, I will call
the police.” (Dkt. 143-3, at 39, 66:7-14.) Mrs. Epee
replied, “[I]f there's anyone here who would call
the police, it is me, because you do not have any papers
here.” (Id. at 39, 66:14-16.) Mouloki
testifies that Mrs. Epee threatened her repeatedly:
“[W]henever [we] had problems, all the time she would
say that to me.” (Id. at 76, 113:24-114:10.)
She also says that Mrs. Epee said to her: “[I]f the
police found out that you were here…it's not only
that you're going to be in trouble, not only that
they're going to arrest you, but they're also going
to take the keys and throw them in the river.”
(Id. at 96-97, 161:17-162:3; Dkt. 149, ¶ 25;
Dkt. 149-3, at 3, 67:2-5.) Mouloki sometimes saw police while
she was living with the Epees, but she says she did not
contact them “[b]ecause I did not have any
identity.”(Dkt. 143-3, at 40, 67:2-22.) Mr. Epee
never used physical force or restraint against Mouloki, nor
did he threaten to do either. (Dkt. 128, at 9; Dkt. 143,
¶¶ 32-33; Dkt. 143-3, at 38, 65:7-9.) He also did
not threaten to call the police or make any threats to
Mouloki regarding her immigration status. (Dkt. 143,
¶¶ 35-36; Dkt. 143-3, at 75, 113:20-23.)
2006, Mouloki suffered an ulcer. (Dkt. 143-1, ¶ 11;
Dkt. 149, ¶ 26.) She stayed in the hospital three days
and Mr. Epee came to pick her up and drive her back to the
Epee household. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 27.) Mouloki still had
staples in her stomach when she returned to the house.
(Id. at ¶ 27.) Despite this, she immediately
started caring for the children without time to rest and
recover upon her return. (Id. at ¶ 27.)
2007, Defendants told Mouloki that she would need to find a
new place to live when they returned to
Cameroon. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 47; Dkt. 143, ¶
43.) Mouloki learned that the Defendants were considering
having her stay in the United States with Mrs. Epee's
cousin, Marie Reed (“Mrs. Reed”). (Dkt. 1, ¶
47.) Mouloki spoke with Mrs. Reed about the possibility of
working for her and disclosed what the Epees had paid her, as
well as her working conditions. (Id. at ¶ 47.)
In response, Mrs. Reed told Mouloki that was the Epees were
doing to her was wrong and the equivalent to slavery.
(Id.) Mrs. Reed promise that if Mouloki could get
herself to New York that Mouloki could stay with her.
December 9, 2007, the Epees dropped Mouloki off at a shopping
center to run errands for them. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 48; Dkt.
149, ¶ 29.) They planned to pick her up several hours
later. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 48.) Unbeknownst to the Epees, Mouloki
had prearranged for someone to meet her at the shopping
center that day and drive her to a friend's home, where
she had started to store some of her belongs in anticipation
of getting out of the Epee household. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 48.)
She called a taxi with the help of her friend and asked the
taxi to take her to the bus station in Chicago.
(Id.) There, Mouloki boarded a bus heading to New
York City. (Id.) Mouloki did not tell the Epees that
she was leaving. (Dkt. 143, ¶ 46.) She went to live with
Mrs. Reed, Mrs. Epee's cousin, who had told Mouloki that
she could stay with her in New York. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 47; Dkt.
143, ¶ 48; Dkt. 149, ¶¶ 29-30.) Mouloki lived
with Mrs. Reed until 2011. (Dkt. 143, ¶ 49; Dkt. 149,
¶ 30.) During this time, Mrs. Reed was also abusive to
Mouloki. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 31.)
2012, while receiving additional treatment for her ulcer,
Mouloki encountered a social worker at the hospital. (Dkt.
149, ¶ 32.) The social worker referred Mouloki to an
attorney who referred Mouloki to Safe Horizon, who conducted
intake with Mouloki on June 28, 2012. (Dkt. 149, ¶¶
33-34; Dkt. 143-1, ¶ 13.) Safe Horizon worked with
Mouloki to obtain her T-Visa, report her situation to the
authorities, and find pro bono counsel for her civil
suit. (Dkt. 149, ¶ 35.) In 2014, Mouloki obtained the
T-Visa that she currently holds. (Dkt. 143, ¶¶
continues to reside in the New York City area. (Dkt. 143,
¶ 2.) The Epees have returned to Cameroon. (Id.
at ¶¶ 5-6.)
21, 2014, Mouloki filed this Complaint. (Dkt. 1.)
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Whether a fact is material depends on the
underlying substantive law that governs the dispute.
Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012)
(citation omitted). “A factual dispute is
‘genuine' only if a reasonable jury could find for
either party.” Nichols v. Mich. City Plant Planning
Dep't, 755 F.3d 594, 599 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Because the plaintiff
bears the ultimate burden of persuasion, the defendant's
summary judgment burden “may be discharged by
‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the district
court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986); see also Andrews
v. CBOCS W., Inc., 743 F.3d 230, 234 (7th Cir. 2014).
“Upon such a showing, the nonmovant must then
‘make a showing sufficient to establish the existence
of an element essential to that party's case.'”
Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir.
2013) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). The Court
views the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving
party and draws all reasonable inferences in her favor.
See Popovits v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 185 F.3d
726, 731 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal citations omitted);
see e.g., Duff v. Grandberry, No. 14 C
8967, 2017 WL 2424236, at *1 (N.D.Ill. June 5, 2017) (citing
Popovits, 185 F.3d at 731). Summary judgment is only
appropriate where “no reasonable jury could rule in
favor of the nonmoving party.” See Bagwe v.
Sedgwick Claims Mgmt. Servs., Inc., 811 F.3d 866, 879
(7th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).
Complaint, Mouloki sets forth nine counts against the Epees.
Counts I-III allege violations of the Trafficking Victims
Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”) for
peonage (18 U.S.C. §§ 1581, 1595), forced labor (18
U.S.C. §§ 1589, 1595), and trafficking into
servitude (18 U.S.C. §§ 1590, 1595). Count IV
alleges a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) for violating its Federal Minimum Wage
and Overtime Pay law (29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207,
216(b)). The remaining counts allege state claims for not
paying minimum wage and overtime compensation (820 ILCS
105/2, 105/4) (Count V); failure to provide the lawful
frequency of payments (820 ILCS 115/3 - 115/5, 115/14) (Count
VI); conversion (Count VII); fraudulent misrepresentation
(Count VIII); and unjust enrichment (Count IX).
Epees submit that the Court should grant summary judgment
against most of Mouloki's claims either due to the
inapplicability of the TVPRA based on timing (Dkt. 128, at
6-8) or for lack of timeliness for Counts IV-V and VII-IX
(Id. at 12-17). To make this argument, the Epees
move for leave to file an Amended Answer to the Complaint
because they waited to use a statute of limitations defense
until after the close of discovery so that they could assert
it in good faith. (Dkt. 120, at 1-2.) The Epees also contend
that no material, disputed facts remain that would allow
Mouloki to prevail on the merits of her TVPRA or state law
claims because the facts cannot show that the Epees coerced
or harbored Mouloki (Dkt. 128, at 10-12); that Mouloki
entered into a labor contract with Mr. Epee (Id. at
14); that Mouloki demanded that the Epees
return a specified amount of money that they refused to give
(Id. at 14-15); nor that Mouloki's activities in
the Epee household constituted a business rather than
personal relationship (Id. at 15-17).
Motion for Leave to File an Amended Answer
threshold matter, the Epees move for leave to file an Amended
Answer to the Complaint. (Dkt. 120.) The Epees did not plead
any affirmative defenses in their Answer. (Id.,
¶ 2; see Dkt. 36.) They seek leave to amend
their answer to include statute of limitations defenses for
Counts IV-V and VII-IX. (Dkt. 120, ¶ 4.) The Epees state
that they “can now in good faith claim that some of
Plaintiff's claims are time barred” because
“[f]act discovery is closed.” (Id.,
¶ 3.) Parties must affirmatively state any affirmative
defense in responding to a ...