Federal court denies IPI motion to stay proceedings in lawsuit of seven workers

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DISTRICT Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has denied the request of Imperial Pacific International LLC to suspend  court proceedings in the lawsuit filed by seven workers over labor complaints.

Judge Manglona, in a bench ruling on Sept. 18, also denied IPI’s motion to vacate discovery sanctions.

She said she will issue a written decision.

As for the seven workers’ petition for attorney’s fees, the judge took the issue under advisement.

IPI, represented by attorney Michael Dotts, cited the indictments filed against its executives as the reason for the request.

Dotts also wants to know why the judge is handling the civil lawsuit when she is also handling and presiding over the then-sealed criminal indictment against two IPI executives.

In addition, he asked the court to vacate all discovery sanctions entered against the casino investor since December 2019.

IPI earlier asked twice for a stay in the lawsuit  because it feared that the U.S. government was also conducting a criminal investigation against IPI.

In IPI’s latest motion to stay proceedings, Dotts said Judge Manglona twice dismissed IPI’s fears and denied the motions for a stay.

Dotts said IPI, for the third time, moves for a mandatory stay because Judge Manglona is presiding over a criminal matter involving the same occurrence in the civil action.

He said the judge has no discretion to deny a stay that is mandatory under the statute.

Judge Manglona last month  denied IPI’s motion to set aside judgment in the lawsuit of  the seven workers — Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

But the judge has yet to rule on the plaintiffs’ petition for damages.

The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline, are asking for $3.86 million in compensatory damages and $7.72 million in punitive damages.

The plaintiffs worked for IPI’s former contractor and subcontractor  MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI).

IPI was named defendant in the seven workers’ amended complaint.

The plaintiffs are alleging forced labor, negligence, and liability for employees of subcontractors.

The plaintiffs’ first amended complaint 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 the plaintiffs said they suffered on the IPI construction project.

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