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Plaintiffs’ lawyer: IPI chose to disobey court order

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ATTORNEY Aaron Halegua is asking the federal court to approve his clients’ motion for sanctions against Imperial Pacific International.


The court, he said, should make accommodations only where IPI demonstrates specific impediments created by the pandemic Covid-19.
Halegua and attorney Bruce Berline represent seven workers who have alleged that they were victims of forced labor and human trafficking scheme while employed by IPI’s former construction contractor and subcontractor MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI). IPI has denied the allegations.
The plaintiffs are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan. They are seeking an award for damages and monetary compensation for their injuries and pain and suffering against each of the three defendants — IPI, MCC International and Gold Mantis.
They have asked the District Court for the NMI to issue an order directing IPI to produce the records they requested. They also want the court to sanction IPI for failing to produce discovery that the court has previously ordered.
Represented by attorneys Kelley Butcher, Sean Frink, Joey San Nicolas, and Catherine Cachero IPI opposes the motion for sanction and said none of its delayed production of requested documents or materials was due to willfulness or, bad faith, or its fault.
But according to Halegua, “IPI has offered no caselaw or evidence to establish that its noncompliance was its fault.”
IPI admitted that it violated the orders of the court, and has not demonstrated that its noncompliance was outside of its control, he added. “IPI has not established that collecting company emails, which are stored on a central server was outside of its control. IPI has not established that collecting or producing data from company-issued mobile phones was outside of its control. IPI has not established that producing…data was outside of its control.”
Halegua said IPI is “a publicly traded multinational corporation and its alleged lack of experience in e-discovery (or that of its in-house counsel) does not justify violating multiple court orders. IPI chose to disobey the court’s order rather than request an extension of time to produce requested documents.”
Because IPI seeks an extension of the May 8 deadline for discovery, Halegua said it should bear the burden of demonstrating that the Covid-19 pandemic has made meeting that deadline impossible or dangerous.
Halegua said “being homebound due to the pandemic may not necessarily be an impediment,” adding that the court continues to operate and IPI lawyers continue to file pleadings.
“IPI should be required to submit an emergency petition within five calendar days of the order that provides sworn affidavits specifically identifying any hardship and why it makes completing the required discovery tasks impossible or dangerous; describing efforts made to find alternate solutions to comply with the deadline; and stating the precise modifications it proposes to the court’s order. At this late stage, financial cost should not be a valid reason for extending the deadline. Plaintiffs should then be provided three days to respond, including an opportunity to provide evidence of vendors capable of performing the required tasks by May 8, 2020,” Halegua said.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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