This was a class action brought in October of 2006 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California on behalf of all legal hourly-paid agricultural workers who had been employed by fruit picking companies of Reedley, California owned by defendants. Plaintiff alleged that employees of Fruit Patch, Inc. engaged in a massive scheme to hire undocumented immigrants for the express purpose of depressing employee wages. In furtherance of their scheme, defendants are alleged to have recruited over 100 undocumented immigrants to work in their plants, provided housing for them and turned a blind eye to obviously fake work papers. Plaintiff further alleged that after defendants were notified of workers using false social security numbers, the undocumented workers would then simply assume new bogus identities and continue working. Plaintiff alleges that defendants' scheme violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., and the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a), et seq. Plaintiff was represented by private counsel.
Defendants moved to dismiss the case. On March 27, 2007, the District Court (Judge Oliver W. Wanger) granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion to dismiss and denied the plaintiff's request for sanctions. Judge Wanger held that plaintiff's complaint sufficiently stated a claim for RICO violations by alleging predicate acts of knowingly hiring unauthorized aliens and harboring undocumented aliens. He, however, found that allegations of a conspiracy involving unnamed co-conspirators did not comply with notice pleading requirements. The Court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. Hernandez v. Balakian, 480 F. Supp. 2d 1198 (E.D. Cal. 2007).
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint and defendants answered it and asserted affirmative defenses, which plaintiff moved to strike. That motion was denied. Hernandez v. Balakian, No. CV-F-06-1383 OWW/DLB, 2007 WL 1649911 (E.D. Cal. June 1, 2007).
The parties proceeded to discovery on class issues, and, in December of 2007, the plaintiff filed his motion for class certification. Shortly thereafter, in January of 2008, the plaintiff sought leave to file an amended complaint, as he had been arrested and charged with a felony, and had been injured in an automobile accident that impaired his memory. He argued he was no longer a suitable class representative.
The Court (Judge Wanger) allowed plaintiff 30 days to amend his complaint to substitute a suitable class representative. Hernandez v. Balakian, 251 F.R.D. 488 (E.D. Cal. 2008). However, the plaintiff filed to timely amend the complaint, and the case was dismissed without prejudice.Brian Ponton - 08/31/2007
Dan Whitman - 10/14/2014