IPI ordered to pay sanctions, attorney’s fees and costs

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FOR failing to comply with a prior stipulated order, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ordered Imperial Pacific International to pay monetary sanction in the amount of $2,000 per day from May 17, 2020 until compliance has been satisfied.

At a status conference hearing on Thursday, Judge Manglona also ordered IPI to produce bank records and a list of employment dates of 68 custodians to plaintiffs by Monday, June 1, 2020.

The judge likewise directed IPI to submit notice or certification to court and the plaintiffs as to the ability of Litigation Edge to provide data by Friday. Data must be transferred on two hard drives to plaintiffs no later than seven days after Thursday’s status conference, the judge added.

Litigation Edge is a vendor used by IPI to download electronically stored information requested by the plaintiffs — seven workers who allege that they were victims of labor violations and a human trafficking scheme while under the employ of the former contractor and subcontractor of IPI, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI).

They are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.

On Thursday, Judge Manglona ordered IPI to transfer $42,000 to plaintiffs no later than 14 days after the hearing on May 28 for the costs of paying a new vendor to host and search the data.

In addition, she ordered IPI to produce all responsive materials from the 53 boxes of paper documents to plaintiffs within 30 days or file a certificate that there were no responsive documents.

Moreover, Judge Manglona dismissed without prejudice the IPI motion for protective order and request to shift costs of Litigation Edge searches to plaintiffs.

“Without prejudice” means IPI can renew its request for protective order at a later date.

One of the plaintiffs’ two attorneys, Aaron Halegua, asked the court to order IPI to pay for the cost of an expedited transcript as part of sanctions for non-compliance.

Judge Manglona granted the request.

IPI attorney Michael Dotts noted concerns as to payment. He earlier said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the casino investor had no income.

The judge said the court will “assess when the defendant will pay for the transcripts.”

Halegua also requested the court to waive the defendant's opposition as to attorneys’ fees, which the court granted. IPI was ordered not to file any opposition to the upcoming motion for attorney's fees.

Halegua’s motion for attorney’s fees and costs was granted by Judge Manglona on the same day.

The plaintiffs requested a total award of $40,112.00 in attorney’s fees in connection with their motion for sanctions.

As to personal phones used by IPI employees for work purposes, Judge Manglona directed IPI to obtain the phones informally.

If unable to do so, IPI should file a Rule 45 subpoena within seven days and take judicial action as needed, Judge Manglona ordered.

In her previous ruling in April, she gave IPI one month to produce documents requested by the plaintiffs; otherwise, she said, IPI would be required to pay $2,000 per day until it produces everything.

Judge Manglona then directed IPI to tender all remaining items in the prior stipulated discovery schedule order by May 16, 2020.

IPI, however, failed to file a certification of compliance before the deadline.


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