The seven men who are suing their former employer, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, and its contractor and subcontractor over the alleged injuries they suffered during accidents at the worksite of IPI’s casino/resort project in Garapan, have asked the federal court to again sanction IPI for allegedly violating the court’s order.
The seven plaintiffs, through counsel Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline, said that IPI violated the U.S. District Court for the NMI’s initial order to produce all discovery materials by Jan. 13, 2020. Halegua and Berline said that IPI now also violated the stipulation ordered by the court requiring it to produce all discovery materials by Feb. 24, 2020.
As of press time yesterday, Saipan Tribune was still awaiting comments from IPI.
The lawyers asked the court to treat IPI’s failure to obey the orders as contempt of court and for it to impose a civil contempt sanction of $5,000 per day. Halegua and Berline also asked the court to instruct IPI that any further noncompliance with its discovery obligations will result in harsher sanctions such as striking its pleadings or entering a default judgment.
They asked the court to award plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees in connection with IPI’s disobedience of the court’s prior discovery orders.
Halegua and Berline said the plaintiffs are sympathetic to IPI counsel’s recent personal issues but that does not excuse IPI’s consistent violations of court orders over the course of many months.
Last December, the plaintiffs requested the court to award them $31,801 in attorneys’ fees and $156 in costs in connection with their motion to compel. The issue is pending in court.
At a hearing last Dec. 12, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted the former workers’ counter-motion to compel IPI to respond to their discovery requests. Manglona ordered IPI to respond to all discovery requests.
The judge also granted the workers’ motion to sanction IPI and ordered the company to pay attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs/workers for bringing the motion to compel.
The plaintiffs—Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Quingchun Xu, and Xiyang Du—are suing IPI, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., and MCC’s subcontractor, Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC.
The plaintiffs, who are all Chinese nationals, are suing the defendants 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.
IPI said any wage claims by the plaintiffs are barred because they voluntarily illegally entered the CNMI to work.