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Case Name Achari v. Signal International, LLC IM-LA-0012
Docket / Court 2:13-cv-06218 ( E.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Signal International Guest Worker Cases
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
This is the third case filed in the Signal International cases.

On May 21, 2013, 33 Indian guestworkers filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, for harm ... read more >
This is the third case filed in the Signal International cases.

On May 21, 2013, 33 Indian guestworkers filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, for harm suffered as a result of an allegedly fraudulent and coercive employment recruitment scheme. The case was filed after District Judge Jay Zainey denied class certification on Jan. 3, 2012 in the related case David v. Signal International. Plaintiffs were represented by private law firms.

Plaintiffs were brought to the United States to provide labor and services to defendant Signal International, a Mississippi company in the business of providing repairs to offshore oil rigs, including rigs in the Gulf Coast region. The complaint alleged that plaintiffs paid Signal's recruiters as much as $25,000 each for travel, visa, and recruitment fees, but upon arrival in the United States found out they would not receive the green cards promised to them. Instead, plaintiffs were allegedly forced to pay additional fees ($1050 per month) to live in racially segregated labor camps, and were subject to squalid living conditions and threats of both legal and physical harm if they complained about the conditions or decided not to provide labor.

In Oct. 2013, the Court (Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr.) consolidated this case and Chakkiyattil v. Signal International, Krishnakutty v. Signal International, and Devassy v. Signal International, and then transferred the consolidated case to the Eastern District of Louisiana. Achari was the lead case.

The second amended complaint of Mar. 3, 2014, filed on behalf of 47 guestworkers, alleged violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (18 U.S.C. §1589 (forced labor) and 18 U.S.C. §1590 (trafficking)) and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (42 U.S.C. §1981), as well as claims for fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract. With consolidation, additional defendants were added, including attorneys, labor brokers, and recruiters involved in the trafficking scheme.

In Apr. 2014, the Court also consolidated Singh v. Signal International into Achari.

On July 12, 2014, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied Signal's motion to transfer all of the cases pending against it to the Eastern District of Louisiana.

On Aug. 13-14, 2014, the Court (District Judge Susie Morgan) denied defendants' motions for partial dismissal, finding that plaintiffs had sufficiently pleaded factual allegations to support their claims.

On Oct. 14, 2014, Judge Morgan ordered Signal to refine its subpoena for bank records of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs argued that the request was not reasonably tailored so as to result in the discovery of admissible evidence, but the court disagreed since the plaintiffs were alleging financial coercion. However, the court found that since the litigation was in a late stage, Signal should be required to narrow its request from all affected persons to the named plaintiffs in the consolidated cases.

Also on Oct. 14, 2014, Judge Morgan denied Signal's motion for interlocutory appeal of the Court's prohibition of discovery on plaintiffs' post-Signal information including immigration status, or alternatively to stay pending application for mandamus relief. Judge Morgan found that the criteria for interlocutory appeal were not present and that a discretionary stay pending the outcome of a petition for mandamus relief was not warranted. 37 F. Supp. 3d 836.

The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On Jan. 6, 2015, Judge Morgan denied Signal's motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiffs' claim for relief under TVPA. 2015 WL 75276.

On June 4, 2015, Judge Morgan issued an opinion determining the choice of law governing plaintiffs' common law claims. She found that the law of India governed plaintiffs' claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation, and the law of Mississippi governed their claims of breach of contract and agency.

A one-month jury trial was scheduled for July 2015, but the parties began settlement talks instead. By this time, the only remaining defendants were Signal, Burnett (immigration lawyer), and Dewan (recruiters). The other co-defendants were in bankruptcy proceedings, which stayed judgment against them.

During the end of 2015, the parties entered into settlement negotiations, and on Oct. 2, 2015, the Achari (plaintiff), Chakkiyattil (plaintiff), and Burnett (defendant) parties filed a joint motion for dismissal contingent on their reaching a final agreement. In Dec. 2015, the Achari (plaintiff) and Dewan (defendant) parties filed another joint motion for conditional dismissal, and the court vacated the scheduled pre-trial and trial dates for all of the parties.

Also in Dec. 2015, in the related EEOC case, the EEOC announced that the parties had reached a settlement for all cases, approved by the bankruptcy court. Signal would pay $5 million to 476 guestworkers through a claims process. All aggrieved individuals included in the litigation could receive relief in spite of the bankruptcy proceedings. Signal's CEO also issued an apology for its conduct.

On Apr. 7, 2017 in the David case, the parties settled the matter of attorneys' fees. The same day in Achari, Judge Morgan dismissed the Dewan (recruiters) and Burnett (lawyer) defendants without prejudice, though the plaintiffs could, by Aug. 1, 2018, reopen the action if the settlement was not consummated. On Apr. 18, 2017 in both David and Achari Judge Morgan entered a sealed stipulated judgment as to the Dewan defendants, though this document is not publicly available.

The Court closed Achari on May 26, 2017, without prejudice. The Court shall retain jurisdiction. Any party may reopen the case if any of the unlocated plaintiffs are located so that they may be paid pursuant to the settlement agreement.

Anna Dimon - 04/18/2015
Ava Morgenstern - 12/01/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Discrimination-area
Discipline
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Pay / Benefits
Discrimination-basis
Immigration status
National origin discrimination
Race discrimination
General
Bathing and hygiene
Disparate Treatment
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Housing
Loss or damage to property
Racial segregation
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration/Border
Employer sanctions
Employment
Immigration lawyers
Temporary foreign workers program
U.S. citizenship - acquiring
National Origin/Ethnicity
Indian
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Asian/Pacific Islander
Special Case Type
Multi-District Litigation (MDL)
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1981
State law
Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. § 1589
Defendant(s) Dewan Consultants
Global Resources, Inc
Gulf Coast Immigration Law Center
Malvern C. Burnett
Michael Pol
Sachi Dewan
Signal International
Plaintiff Description 47 Indian guestworkers fraudulently recruited to work in the U.S.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing IM-LA-0010 : David v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0011 : Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0013 : Chakkiyattil v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0014 : Krishnakutty v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0015 : Devassy v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0016 : Singh v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. La.)
IM-TX-0035 : Samuel v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036 : Joseph v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0037 : Meganathan v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0038 : Kambala v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0039 : Marimuthu v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. Tex.)
Docket(s)
2:13-cv-06218-SM-DEK (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint and Jury Demand [ECF# 1]
IM-LA-0012-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Consolidating Cases and Transferring to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [ECF# 44] (2013 WL 5705660 / 2013 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 150233) (S.D. Miss.)
IM-LA-0012-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/18/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint and Jury Demand [ECF# 200]
IM-LA-0012-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/03/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 305] (2014 WL 5489359) (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/13/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Transfer [ECF# 306] (38 F.Supp.3d 1390) (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/13/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons (2014 WL 5795238) (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/14/2014
Order [ECF# 345] (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 392] (37 F.Supp.3d 836) (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/14/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 534] (2015 WL 3603944) (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/04/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 781] (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Partial Dismissal [ECF# 782] (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Breyer, Charles R. (N.D. Cal.)
IM-LA-0012-0007
Guirola, Louis Jr. (W.D. Tex., S.D. Miss.)
IM-LA-0012-0002
Heyburn, John Gilpin II (W.D. Ky.)
IM-LA-0012-0007
Knowles, Daniel E. III (E.D. La.) [Magistrate]
IM-LA-0012-0005
Morgan, Donna Sue (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0004 | IM-LA-0012-0006 | IM-LA-0012-0009 | IM-LA-0012-0010 | IM-LA-0012-0011 | IM-LA-0012-0012 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Proctor, R. David (N.D. Ala.)
IM-LA-0012-0007
Rendell, Marjorie O. (E.D. Pa., Third Circuit)
IM-LA-0012-0007
Vance, Sarah S. (E.D. La.)
IM-LA-0012-0007
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abdelkarim, Mostafa M. (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Adams, Daniel D. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Aiello, Justin P. (Florida)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Alshak, Ryan J. (California)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Baker, H. Gregory (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Batchelor, Craig Alan (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Beaudette, Katelyn M. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Beckles, Tricia (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Bhargava, Michael (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Blechman, Michael (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Blum, Ronald G. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Bullerman, Michael S. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Byrd, Sibyl C. (Mississippi)
IM-LA-0012-0001
Campbell, Benton J (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Capasso, Daniele J. (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Case, Andrew (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Chandrika, Sarah C. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Chatham, Asra A. (Florida)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Chen, Eric B. (California)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Churchill, Mark H. (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Clark, Scott W. (Texas)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Colby, Eben P. (Massachusetts)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Copley, Steven W. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Diaz, Sadie Holzman (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Greenberg, Jennifer (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Grimsal, A. Gregory (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Harris, Christopher R. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Howard, Jacob W. (Mississippi)
IM-LA-0012-0001
Johnson, Danielle E. (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Kanny, Matthew P. (California)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Kline, Robert M. (Florida)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Krumm, Marissa C. (Florida)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Low, John C. (Texas)
IM-LA-0012-9000
McDuff, Robert B. (Mississippi)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Mehta, Mona (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Parver, Jane W. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Raptis, Stephen T. (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Rheinheimer, Christopher A. (California)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Rosenbaum, Yonina (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Rostoker, Jessica D. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Rowen, Zachary L. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Rowland, Elizabeth C. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Ruthberg, Miles N. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Safane, Aaron M. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-0001 | IM-LA-0012-0003 | IM-LA-0012-9000
Salerno, Matthew S. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Sherman, Randolph S. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Simshauser, Peter (Massachusetts)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Spears, Steven G. (Texas)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Sprague, Ashley M. (District of Columbia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Stewart, Meredith B. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Szivos, Thomas J. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Taffet, Eric. L. (New York)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Uhlemann, Justin B. (Florida)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Walker, Jacob A. (Massachusetts)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Walsh, Michael R. (Massachusetts)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Werner, Daniel (Georgia)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bollman, Patricia Anne F. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Buras, Daniel Edwin Jr. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Carlisle, Arthur D. (Mississippi)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Cerniglia, Timothy W. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Cornblatt, James L. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Gianna, Dominic Joseph (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Hangartner, Erin Casey (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Hasenkampf, Mitchell P. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Keller, Robert Louis (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Maney, Kevin P. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Masur Davis, Lauren C. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Rabbani, Elham (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Roux, Brian C. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Rydberg, Lance R. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Shapiro, Stephen H. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Ungar, Hal D. (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000
Weinberger, Alan Dean (Louisiana)
IM-LA-0012-9000

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