U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted today, Friday, a default judgment against Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC in connection with a lawsuit filed by seven former workers.
At the order to show cause hearing, Manglona described IPI’s noncompliance and delays in this lawsuit as “mindboggling and “very frustrating.”
The judge will hold hearings as to how much to be awarded to the plaintiffs (former workers).
The default judgment would be after the plaintiffs determine the amount of damages.
IPI general counsel Michael W. Dotts said IPI is disappointed by the judge’s decision and respectfully disagrees with the ruling. Dotts said IPI will ask Manglona to reconsider the default. He said IPI is having lots of troubles now but hopes to turn it around and once IPI is back on its feet.
“The entry of default is a hard blow, but it is not fatal. IPI can come back and IPI will come back and litigate this case to the end,” Dotts said.
Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline are counsel for the plaintiffs.
Halegua said Manglona decided that IPI’s repeated violations of multiple court orders, as well as its persistent obstruction and delay in gathering evidence, were willful acts and have continued for too long.
Halegua said their clients suffered tremendously as victims of a forced labor and human trafficking scheme in which they paid high recruitment fees based on false promises, only to then work long hours under dangerous and inhumane conditions.
“They endured scorched legs, burnt hands, and smashed fingers to build that casino, but never received a penny of compensation for their suffering. We are glad that they are one step closer to obtaining justice,” Halegua said.
Dotts argued in his brief that IPI does not deserve a drastic remedy like default judgment because it has not willfully, or in bad faith, violated any federal court orders.
Manglona held the show cause hearing for IPI to explain why the court should not enter a default judgment against the company for failing to comply with court discovery orders. That came after IPI told the court about its failure to pay the sanctions and costs.
The plaintiffs, who are now based in China, are suing IPI and its two former contractors for allegedly forcing them to work long hours for below minimum wage under extremely dangerous conditions at the casino worksite, among other allegations.
In its response, IPI said any wage claims by the plaintiffs are barred because they voluntarily illegally entered the CNMI to work.
More details to follow.