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    Monday, October 14, 2019-7:57:14A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Lawyer says his client didn’t understand court rule

ATTORNEY William M. Fitzgerald says his client, a tour company, did not understand that it is required to answer a lawsuit within 21 days.

Fitzgerald represents Black Bison Travel Corporation, formerly known as Jili Corporation, in a lawsuit filed by an investor, Junjie Wu, who is alleging fraud, among other things.

In response to District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s order to show cause why a default judgment should not be issued against Black Bison, Fitzgerald said its two representatives who came to his office did not speak English well.

“When the complaint was served, nobody in their office (Black Bison) understood what it was and they did not understand that an answer to the complaint had to be filed within 21 days.”

He said the two representatives earlier went to a local law firm “presented the front desk with the complaint and were told they would be contacted, but were not told that there was a time limit to answer the complaint.”

Fitzgerald said after failing to get legal advice from that office that they visited three times, they were recommended to his office.

He said they were seen by him on Aug. 26, 2019 and he had to require them to bring an interpreter to explain the facts to him.

Fitzgerald said he learned that Black Bison was served with the complaint on July 17, 2019, but had filed no answer.

He said he immediately emailed Wu’s attorney, Colin Thompson, informing him that he, Fitzgerald, would be representing Black Bison.

Fitzgerald said he asked Thompson to withdraw his motion for default and to allow the defense to answer the lawsuit by Sept. 6, 2019.

“He asked me the reason for the failure to answer in a timely manner and I explained to him what the clients had told me,” Fitzgerald said, adding that Thompson agreed that the plaintiff would not pursue the motion for entry of default and that the defense could file an answer by Sept. 6, 2019.

Fitzgerald stated that he recognizes that the agreement with the plaintiff’s attorney is not sufficient to allow a tardy answer and the defendants are required to obtain the court’s permission before filing an answer.

But he said the court has the power to allow late filing. “Dismissal or default is only appropriate where there has been a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct,” Fitzgerald added.

“In this case, there is no record of delay or contumacious conduct, but merely confusion and misunderstanding by Chinese nationals with severely limited English ability who attempted to obtain legal advice, but were frustrated in this effort.”

Fitzgerald said “the intention to contest the complaint within 19 days of the answer being due indicates clearly” that the defendant’s late answer did not and will not cause the plaintiffs “any prejudice and also evidences a desire to correct the default.”

The plaintiff, Junjie Wu, the principal shareholder of Chimeng Science & Technology Co. Ltd. based in China, sued Black Bison for fraud, conversion, breach of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and fraudulent transfers.

Wu has asked the court to issue an order awarding him damages and directing the defendants for an accounting and audit of all funds, payments and contributions made by him to the tour company.

On Aug. 15, 2019, Thompson filed a motion for entry of default, saying that the defendant did not file an answer within the time allotted by the rules of civil procedure.

On Sept 6, 2019, Black Bison, through attorney William Fitzgerald, filed a response to the complaint and denied all the allegations.