Federal judge issues written order against IPI

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DISTRICT Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has issued a written order memorializing the default judgment entered against Imperial Pacific International LLC in the lawsuit of seven workers who alleged labor and other violations.

In her order, the judge also struck from the record the answer of IPI to the first amended complaint of the plaintiffs: Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

They are construction workers from China represented by attorneys Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline.

They have asked the federal court to issue an order awarding them $3.86 million for compensatory damages and $7.72 million for punitive damages.

The plaintiffs also seek an award for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Named as defendants in their lawsuit were IPI and its former contractor and subcontractor, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI).

The plaintiffs’ first amended complaint also alleged human trafficking under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and the CNMI Anti-Trafficking Act, as well as claims under CNMI law for the physical injuries that the plaintiffs suffered at the construction project.

According to the federal judge, IPI has willfully ignored court deadlines, repeatedly letting them pass without filing a single motion for an extension.

“It has walked back from the stipulations it agreed to in January 2020. It has provided confusing and contradicting information to both plaintiffs and the court. It argues financial distress but provides no documentation of its financial health. It has changed counsel several times during this period and was warned by the court each time that such changes could negatively impact its ability to meet its discovery obligations,” Judge Manglona said in her order.

She said violations by IPI of the discovery orders in this case were willful, and clearly its own fault.

She also noted that “less drastic sanctions have not been successful.”

Previously, Judge Manglona ordered IPI to pay plaintiffs $29,459 in attorneys’ fees and costs.  The order noted that this was currently past due.

Judge Manglona also ordered IPI to pay a $2,000 per diem sanction starting on May 17, but “no part of [it] has been paid to date.”

Clearly, financial sanctions are not effective against IPI, the judge added.

She also found IPI in contempt of court on April 16 for violating two discovery orders “only to learn that IPI then fired its e-discovery expert attorneys the very next day.”

The judge said she has warned IPI on several occasions that repeated discovery violations could result in a default judgment.

The court made “sure that each new IPI attorney was aware of that possibility,” the judge added.

Lesser sanctions and warnings have not worked in this case, Judge Manglona reiterated.

IPI, represented by attorney Mike Dotts, recently asked the judge to set aside her ruling against IPI.

Dotts said IPI is willing to pay all outstanding sanctions but needs time.

 

 

 

 

 

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