IPI says it is complying with discovery requests in workers’ lawsuit

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IMPERIAL Pacific International believes it has “materially complied with all discovery requests and orders at this point with the sole exception that IPI has not completed some cell phone downloads,” attorney Michael W. Dotts said.

He represents IPI in the lawsuit filed by seven workers who said they were victims of labor violations and a human trafficking scheme when they were employed by the former contractor and subcontractor of casino hotel operator.

In a 39-page response to the workers’ attorney Aaron Halegua’s assertion that IPI continues to violate District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s previous court orders regarding discovery, Dotts said the allegation is “substantially in error.”

He added that the discovery sought falls into three (3) categories: (1) interrogatories; (2) production requests; and (3) production agreed to by stipulation. “It is important to be clear at the outset as to exactly what discovery has been sought from IPI,” Dotts said.

Plaintiffs served 23 interrogatories on September 18, 2019. Dotts said IPI provided its responses on January 13, 2020. “Plaintiffs objected to five responses from IPI. On May 16, 2020, IPI provided supplemental responses to these five interrogatories. These complete IPI’s obligations to respond to plaintiffs’ interrogatories.”

Dotts said IPI produced 48,216 pages of documents on May 16, in response to plaintiffs’ 43 requests to produce documents on Sept. 18, 2019.

All of them were Bates numbered, put in PDF format, and delivered on a CD to plaintiffs’ counsel’s office, Dotts said.

He said IPI produced 33 document categories, but as for the 10 other categories, IPI “had no responsive documents and so advised plaintiffs,” Dotts said.

The document production made under the Rule 34 request was a massive undertaking and is now complete, he added.

Dotts said plaintiffs suggested that IPI determine what the most relevant documents are and to Bates number and produce those.

“First off, the rules `require identifying to each request the documents produced, and IPI has done so. Second, it is not for IPI to determine what is relevant for plaintiffs,” Dotts added.

The parties entered into a stipulation regarding discovery on Jan. 21, 2020, which was adopted by the court and became part of an issued order.

The stipulation is long with four subparts, Dotts said. “But the stipulation only added another 20 discovery requests.”

As for the added requests, IPI produced documents or information for 12 out of 20, Dotts said. “For the other eight, IPI had nothing to produce.”

As for ACONEX requests regarding notes and messages, Dotts said, “There are about 6,500 messages within the ACONEX data.”

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

“Downloading them, however, seemed to remove notations on them (IPI stopped download at about 1,000). Rather than making an incomplete production, IPI provided to plaintiffs the account login and password so that plaintiffs could obtain all the ACONEX data they wanted,” Dotts said.

“This complies with Rule 34 as what was produced is how the information is kept in the ordinary course of business,” Dotts said.

Regarding the electronically stored information of IPI, he said, “As the court is aware, the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized pretty much all of IPI’s computers and many company cell phones (basically all of IPI’s ESI existing as of Nov. 7, 2019). When the FBI returned all that was seized, it was sent by IPI to a company in Singapore to ‘process it.’ Basically, the Singapore company (called Litigation Edge) uploaded everything onto its servers and then ran the data through proprietary software to make it searchable.”

As a result, Dotts said, there are 5,299,057 searchable documents on the Litigation Edge server in Singapore that include some duplicates.

IPI contracted to get the data searchable at a contract price of about $124,380 of which IPI had paid $93,340, Dotts said.

“That IPI has paid this amount [shows that] IPI is not intentionally trying to avoid its obligations to provide discovery,” he added.

“What happens next with the Litigation Edge database is for plaintiffs to search through all the documents using keywords or phrases or other…search techniques (they could actually download all 5.3 million documents, but that would be unworkable for all concerned),” Dotts said.

Litigation Edge will then produce the documents to IPI for Bates numbering and privileged information review, and IPI will then produce them to plaintiffs. Anything withheld based on privilege will be so noted as required under the Jan. 21, 2020 stipulation, Dotts added,

In this way, plaintiffs have complete and unrestricted access to all of nonprivileged electronically searched information of IPI, he said.  “The only issue is who pays for the searches.”

Dotts said the search cost is $200 per hour and $0.3 per page. The position of IPI is that plaintiffs should pay for the charges as it is up to them whether to run 1 or 10,000 searches, he added.

As for IPI work cell phones, Dotts said this is an area where his client is still struggling.

IPI has received 49,000 pages of cell phone data, including WhatsApp, WeChat, and SMS messages.

“This cell phone data is added to the data base maintained by Litigation Edge. IPI is continuing to work to produce all cell phone data,” he added.

In the accompanying declaration he submitted to the court, Dotts stated he is familiar with the financial situation of IPI because of his involvement in seeking a stay order on the enforcement of the judgment entered in Pacific Rim Land Development LLC v. Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, Civ. No. 19-00016.

“My understanding is that IPI is unable to afford the costs of Litigation Edge any longer,” he added.

Halegua, in his motion to enter a default judgment against IPI, stated that the casino investor has been “given more than enough chances, but it continues to delay discovery and allow evidence to disappear.”

Halegua and attorney Bruce Berline represent plaintiffs Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan. They named IPI and its former contractor and subcontractor MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) as defendants in their lawsuit.




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