IPI ordered to comply with May 28 discovery order

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THE federal court has ordered Imperial Pacific International LLC to comply with a May 28 discovery order in the lawsuit of seven workers who alleged labor violations.

Non-compliance will result in an issuance of an order to show cause on why a default judgement should not be issued against IPI, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona said.

At the hearing on Friday, she ordered IPI to pay the necessary fees to Litigation Edge to transfer all data to an Amazon Web Services or AWS account controlled by the plaintiffs.

She also directed the plaintiffs to maintain the data without searching or reviewing until further notice of the court.

Litigation Edge is a vendor used by IPI to download electronically stored information requested by the plaintiffs who sued the casino investor and its former contractor and subcontractor MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) for forced labor, negligence, and liability for employees of subcontractors.

The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount in damages and monetary compensation for their injuries and pain and suffering against the defendants to be determined at trial.

Represented by attorneys Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline, the plaintiffs are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

Alleging discovery abuses, Halegua has asked the court to issue a default judgment against IPI.

Judge Manglona at the hearing on Friday told IPI that it must complete the transfer of the electronically stored information data by June 12, 2020.

Moreover, IPI was ordered to file a certification that it tendered the necessary payment to Litigation Edge by Monday, June 8, 2020.

“If IPI does not comply, the court will issue an order to show cause why a default judgment should not be issued against IPI,” the judge said.

IPI attorney Michael Dotts, for his part, requested the court to file certification of compliance as to ACONEX account no later than Tuesday, June 9. Judge Manglona granted the request.

ACONEX is a special program used for architectural and building design. Besides drawings, the ACONEX data contain notes and messages.

Judge Manglona told Dotts to file a declaration of the efforts made by IPI to reach out to its former employees no later than Monday, June 8.

The judge scheduled a status conference for June 12, 2020 at 9 a.m. and allowed the plaintiffs to file a response regarding the compliance of IPI with the court order by Thursday, June 11, at 9 a.m.

IPI owes IT&E over $123K

IPI human resource director Redie Dela Cruz told the court in her declaration that IPI owed IT&E over $123,000 and because of this they were not able to retrieve a copy of the SIM card of one of the IPI custodians, Leo Wu.

Dela Cruz’s declaration was filed to support the compliance certification of IPI to the court.

The HR director said Wu departed Saipan on May 17, 2020,

“From May 14 to 17, 2020, I reached out to Mr. Wu to retrieve the company’s assets, including his cell phone, but I had no success because he did not respond to my requests,” Dela Cruz said.

On May 18, Dela Cruz visited the construction office of IPI to see if the department retrieved Wu’s phone. “I was informed that Mr. Wu did not return the phone,” Dela Cruz added.

Dela Cruz then requested IPI senior property manager Chi How-Yo to have IT&E “burn” Wu’s SIM card. 

“To date, IPI has been unable to retrieve the burned SIM card from IT&E because we owe the vendor over $123,000,” Dela Cruz said.

Furthermore, the HR director said, “The lists of company-issued phones produced on June 1, 2020 was kept in the ordinary course of business and not for litigation purposes. These lists may consist of discrepancies or errors, but they are the best records of company-issued phones in the possession and control of IPI. The property management department of IPI is responsible for the assignment of duty phones.”

According to a separate declaration, Chi How-Yo created the list of company-issued phones that was given to the plaintiffs.

“Some of the numbers in the Excel spreadsheet are employees’ personal numbers, but we included these numbers on the list because IPI was paying for their services. These lines were transferred from a private account to the IPI account. In other words, some lines are not company-issued phones, but private phones and private lines that IPI was paying for. To my knowledge, 10 or less numbers on this list included private phones and private lines that IPI paid for, including but not limited to the lines of Cathy Salas and Lei Wang,” Chi How-Yo stated.

Finding IPI not in compliance with a previous stipulated order, Judge Manglona on May 28, ordered the company to produce its bank records and list employment separation dates of 68 custodians to the plaintiffs by June 1. Leo Wu, Cathy Salas, and Lei Wang are included on the custodians list.

The judge also ordered IPI to pay sanctions of $2,000 a day from May 17, 2020 until compliance has been satisfied.

On June 1, Dotts filed a certification regarding the production of bank records and list of employment dates of the 68 custodians.

The plaintiffs, however, told the court that the discovery provided by IPI was insufficient and in violation of the May 28 court order.

Halegua said the requested discovery is still needed for assessing damages and litigating against other defendants.

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