Lawyer urges court to enter default judgment against IPI

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ATTORNEY Aaron Halegua is asking the federal court to enter a default judgment against Imperial Pacific International in the lawsuit filed by seven workers over forced labor and human trafficking allegations.

Neither the imposition of financial sanctions, a finding of contempt nor the threat of sanctions deterred IPI from violating the orders of this court, Halegua stated in a status report filed on Wednesday.

He said the court should enter a default judgment against IPI as well as enter an order to ensure that necessary discovery materials in possession of the company are not lost or destroyed, such as information relevant to damages or the plaintiffs’ claims against other defendants.

IPI has been given more than enough chances, but it continues to delay discovery and allow evidence to disappear, Halegua added.

Halegua and attorney Bruce Berline represent the plaintiffs Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

They have sued IPI and its former contractor and subcontractor, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI).

They alleged that they are victims of forced labor and human trafficking scheme while employed by the contractor and subcontractor of IPI.

The plaintiffs are seeking an award for damages and monetary compensation for their work-related injuries, pain, and suffering.

On May 6, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ordered IPI to pay Halegua and Berline a total amount of $29,459 for attorneys’ fees and costs within 30 days of the issuance of the order.

The judge also granted the plaintiffs’ counter motion to compel IPI to respond to discovery requests.

Previously, the judge found IPI in contempt of court for violating two of her previous orders.

She gave IPI one month to produce documents requested by the plaintiffs; otherwise, the casino investor will be required to pay $2,000 per day until it produces everything.

The judge directed IPI to tender all remaining items in the prior stipulated discovery schedule order by May 16, 2020.

According to Halegua, IPI has not done so. “While plaintiffs hoped that they would be able to report that IPI’s behavior had improved and the parties had made significant progress, the unfortunate truth is that IPI persists in disobeying court orders and stonewalling plaintiffs, causing discovery to move backwards on many fronts,” he said.

“IPI refused to upload documents to a shared drive; only engaged plaintiffs in a single meet-and-confer, but then raised new objections or requests for clarifications on May 16; promised to produce bank records for two months only to then object at the last moment (after inducing plaintiffs to sign a confidentiality order); and, blatantly violated that confidentiality order just days after signing it, including by designating documents already filed…as confidential,” Halegua said.

On each and every issue, he added, “IPI has engaged in a now-familiar pattern of delay tactics: express confusion about what was ordered; express ignorance about what IPI previously promised; express ignorance about what steps IPI had previously taken; condition production on some act by plaintiffs; and then find a new excuse not to produce the information.”

Halegua asked the court to issue an order preserving the evidence that the plaintiffs need for their case against other defendants, obtaining discovery related to calculating damages, and awarding attorneys’ fees for the time expended by the plaintiffs.

Halegua also said IPI should be ordered to pay $2,000 per day to the court beginning from April 30, 2020 — “the first date on which it violated the sanctions order.”

These payments should be required on a weekly basis, he added.

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