SHOWN EXISTENCE OF IPI’S WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE

‘7 ex-IPI workers switch tactics’

Upon being confronted with a workers compensation insurance policy obtained by Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, the seven construction workers who are suing the company and its two contractors have switched tactics and now argue that such policy does not cover them, according to IPI.

In IPI’s memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, IPI lawyer Phillip J. Tydingco cited the declaration of Magdalena P. Attao, the company’s Human Resources Department vice president, which establishes that the company has workers compensation insurance coverage.

In her declaration, Attao said that IPI had Workers Compensation Insurance in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 for its employees.

Tydingco pointed out that the seven workers who are suing IPI would have found out about this even before filing their suit.

He said that using the most minimal due diligence would have easily revealed the existence of IPI’s workers compensation policy and the falsity of the allegations that IPI did not secure such insurance coverage.

The lawyer said the exclusivity of the workers compensation law means that the insurance policy issue has to be raised and addressed before the Commonwealth Workers Commission, which decides such matters.

Tydingco said that, since IPI possessed workers compensation insurance, the presumption exists that plaintiffs’ claim comes within its coverage.

He said the seven workers can challenge this presumption before the Commonwealth Workers Compensation Commission—not the federal court.

“They have not yet done so,” the lawyer said.

Tydingco reiterated IPI’s argument in its motion to dismiss the case that Commonwealth law contains a one-year period for filing a claim which comes within the purview of the workers compensation statutory scheme.

He said the only statutory exceptions to this one-year limitation period are if an employer waives the limitation period or if the employee is a minor or suffers from a mental defect.

He said none of the plaintiffs allege or otherwise contend that they filed their claim within one year of their alleged injuries.

Tydingco said the complaint clearly establishes that more than one year has lapsed between the alleged injury of each plaintiff and the filing of this lawsuit against IPI.

Tydingco also pointed out that the seven workers essentially contend in their lawsuit that IPI “benefitted” from the forced labor and trafficking scheme because it was in “danger” of losing its casino license and the forced labor and trafficking schemes enabled IPI to retain its license.

“This contention rests upon conclusory allegations without any credible support,” he said, citing that IPI’s license cannot be revoked or otherwise terminated without due process, which, among other procedures, requires administrative proceedings by the Commonwealth Casino Commission.

In their amended lawsuit, the seven plaintiffs are suing IPI, its former contractors Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC and MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. over the injuries they allegedly suffered during accidents at IPI’s casino-resort project in Garapan.

They are suing IPI for alleged forced labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act, forced labor in violation of the CNMI Anti-Trafficking Act, negligence, and liability for employees of subcontractor.

The workers alleged, among other things, that they were forced to work long hours for below-minimum wage under extremely dangerous conditions at the casino-resort worksite.

The seven plaintiffs are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yang.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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