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Case Name De Leon-Granados v. Eller And Sons Trees, Inc. IM-GA-0005
Docket / Court 1:05-cv-01473 ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On June 5, 2005, attorneys with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of over 1500 migrant workers in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ... read more >
On June 5, 2005, attorneys with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of over 1500 migrant workers in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against their former employer, Eller and Sons Trees, Inc. Plaintiffs, who were from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, were admitted to the U.S. under the H-2B temporary farm worker program. The plaintiffs alleged that they planted trees and performed other forestry related work for the defendant, but that the defendant took advantage of them by grossly underpaying them in violation of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The case was assigned to Judge Clarence Cooper.

The District Court granted class certification on September 28, 2006. Leon-Granados v. Eller and Sons Trees, Inc., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73781 (N.D. Ga. Sept. 28, 2006). That same day, Judge Cooper issued a discovery order and held that the applicable statute of limitations for the AWPA claims was six years. Leon-Granados v. Eller and Sons Trees, Inc., 452 F.Supp.2d 1282 (N.D. Ga. 2006). Defendants appealed the class certification order. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the order granting class certification. De Leon-Granados v. Eller and Sons Trees, Inc. 2007 WL 2456206 (11th Cir. Aug. 31, 2007).

While the case was on appeal, discovery continued, as the District Court refused defendants' request to stay the case proceedings. On November 15, 2007, plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment on one of their multiple claims under FLSA--their claim for reimbursement of passport, visa and travel expenses incurred in coming to work for Defendants--as well as on their claim of non-compliance with the AWPA. On October 7, 2008, the court granted Plaintiffs' partial summary judgment motion for the FLSA claim. De Leon-Granados v. Eller & Sons Trees, Inc., 581 F. Supp. 2d 1295, 1313 (N.D. Ga. 2008). The court found that Eller and Sons failed to reimburse their guest workers for travel and visa expenses incurred when they came to the United States to work for the company, failed to provide them all the hours of work they were promised in their H-2B work contracts, and failed to maintain accurate records of the hours they worked. Plaintiffs were awarded $57,001.28 in damages (after court granted plaintiffs' motion to correct summary judgment order). However, the Court was unable to rule on the AWPA claim. The defendants had moved to strike the plaintiffs' expert witness, a veteran wage and hour investigator who had reviewed the defendants' records. Without that testimony, the Court could not rule on the AWPA claim, so it would have to wait until the motion was resolved.

On October 30, 2008, the defendants withdrew their motion to strike the plaintiffs' expert witness. They then moved for an interlocutory appeal on November 4, 2008.

The interlocutory appeal was fought over until September 14, 2009 when the Court denied the appeal because (1) it "would not materially advance the ultimate termination of this litigation," and (2) final judgment would likely follow a damages hearing, and the defendants could just appeal then. 2009 WL 10696537. In the same order, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgement on the AWPA claim, holding that the defendants' payroll had failed to meet the AWPA requirements. It found that, following testimony by the plaintiffs' expert witness, there was no genuine issue of material fact that the defendants had kept inaccurate records and were sometimes intentionally underreporting workers' hours to evade wage payment obligations.

The plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint on July 22, 2010, clarifying requested damages. They then moved for statutory damages on August 6, 2010.

The defendant filed for bankruptcy on September 23, 2010, but the Court ordered on November 4, 2010 that litigation would proceed anyway. The parties proceeded with negotiations in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Montana until June 4, 2012 when that court issued an order that the parties had come to a settlement agreement.

Back in the district court, on September 28, 2012, Judge Cooper granted the plaintiffs' motion for statutory damages pursuant to the AWPA claim. Finding that the defendants were clearly aware of the requirements but willfully ignored them, that these were far more than "mere technical violations," and that each class member would be receiving only a small amount, he awarded statutory damages to the plaintiff class near to the maximum allowable: $499,858.74. 2012 WL 13065433. On October 29, 2012, he then issued a final judgment for the plaintiffs, granting full damages in excess of $11 million.

Dan Dalton - 11/16/2007
Jennifer Bronson - 12/13/2013
Jack Kanarek - 04/17/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Immigration/Border
Employer sanctions
Employment
Temporary foreign workers program
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219
Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1801-1871
Defendant(s) Eller And Sons Trees, Inc.
Plaintiff Description Migrant workers who were employed by Eller and Sons Trees, Inc. at various times from June 1999 through June 2005 under the H-2B temporary farm worker program.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 06/05/2005
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ga.
10/29/2012
1:05-cv-01473-CC
IM-GA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Ga.
02/07/2006
Complaint - Class Action [ECF# 70]
IM-GA-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
N.D. Ga.
03/29/2006
Answer to Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint [ECF# 84]
IM-GA-0005-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
09/28/2006
Opinion [ECF# 100] (2006 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 73781)
IM-GA-0005-0009.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Source: LexisNexis
N.D. Ga.
09/28/2006
Discovery Order [ECF# 101] (452 F.Supp.2d 1282)
IM-GA-0005-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Court of Appeals
08/31/2007
Appellate Opinion (497 F.3d 1214)
IM-GA-0005-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
N.D. Ga.
06/19/2009
Re: Escolastico De Leon-Granados, et al. v. Eller, et al. Civil Action File No. 1:05-CV-1473-CC [ECF# 355]
IM-GA-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
09/29/2009
Order [ECF# 366]
IM-GA-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
07/22/2010
Complaint - Class Action [ECF# 389-2]
IM-GA-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
09/28/2012
Order [ECF# 405]
IM-GA-0005-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
10/29/2012
Final Judgment [ECF# 412]
IM-GA-0005-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Black, Susan Harrell (M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0004
Cooper, Clarence (N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0006 | IM-GA-0005-0007 | IM-GA-0005-0008 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Dubina, Joel Fredrick (M.D. Ala., Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0004
Restani, Jane A. () show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bauer, Mary C. (Virginia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0001 | IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0004 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Bruner, Kelley McNair (Alabama) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0001 | IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-0010 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Freilich, Tim A (Virginia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0001 | IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-0010 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Gulotta, Alex Ross (Virginia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-0010 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Knoepp, James Melvin (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Spears, George Brian (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0001 | IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0004 | IM-GA-0005-0005 | IM-GA-0005-0005 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-0010 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Trodden, Erin Margaret (Virginia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0010 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Turner, Andrew Hess (Alabama) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0001 | IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0004 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-0010 | IM-GA-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Oliver, Paul (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-9000
Stine, James Larry (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0005-0002 | IM-GA-0005-0003 | IM-GA-0005-0004 | IM-GA-0005-0009 | IM-GA-0005-9000

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