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Case Name Joseph v. Signal International, LLC IM-TX-0036
Docket / Court 1:13-cv-00324 ( E.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Immigration
Special Collection Signal International Guest Worker Cases
Case Summary
On May 21, 2013, 33 Indian guest workers filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas for harm suffered as a result of an allegedly fraudulent and coercive employment recruitment scheme. Plaintiffs filed this suit after District Judge Jay Zainey ... read more >
On May 21, 2013, 33 Indian guest workers filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas for harm suffered as a result of an allegedly fraudulent and coercive employment recruitment scheme. Plaintiffs filed this suit after District Judge Jay Zainey denied class certification on January 3, 2012 in a related case, IM-LA-0010.

Plaintiffs were allegedly brought into the United States to provide labor and services to Defendant Signal International at its Orange, Texas site. Signal is based in Pascagoula, Mississippi and is in the business of providing repairs to offshore oil rigs in the Gulf Coast region. The complaint alleges that Plaintiffs paid Defendant Signal's recruiters as much as $25,000 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 forced to pay additional fees to live in racially segregated labor camps ($1050 per month), 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. The plaintiffs also alleged that the fear and coercion plaintiffs they experienced were exacerbated upon learning of abuses occurring at Signal's Pascagoula, Mississippi site.

The amended complaint, filed on behalf of 47 individuals, asserts claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (18 U.S.C. §1589 (forced labor) and 18 U.S.C. §1590 (trafficking)), the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. §1962), the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (42 U.S.C. §1981), the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 (42 U.S.C. §1985), the Thirteenth Amendment, as well as claims of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract. Plaintiffs are represented a private law firm.

In February 2014, United States Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn denied Signal's motion to transfer this case to the Eastern District of Louisiana. The court reasoned that the plaintiffs in this case only overlap with the David case, IM-LA-0010, insofar as their FLSA claims in the David case are concerned. Additionally, the plaintiffs in this case are suing based on events at Signal's Orange, Texas site, whereas plaintiffs in cases pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana are suing based on events at Signal's Pascagoula, Mississippi site.

In October 2014, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn granted Signal's motion to compel production of Plaintiffs' T and U visas and applications for such visas. Although a similar motion had already been denied for the cases pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the court found that the materials' relevance outweighed any potential in terrorem effect. Plaintiffs did not comply with this order until March 4, 2015, but the court denied Signal's motion for sanctions, saying its lack of diligence in pursuing the documents renders it ineligible for relief.

In December 2014, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn severed and transferred Signal's cross-claims against Malvern Burnett, the Law Office of Malvern Burnett, and Gulf Coast Immigration Law Center to the Eastern District of Louisiana. In January 2015, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn also granted a motion to dismiss claims against an individual without prejudice, following his filing for bankruptcy protection. All other defendants are still involved in the litigation.

In February 2015, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn issued an order regarding the proper use of expert testimony. He excluded an expert retained by Signal to opine on Signal's safety practices, finding the expert was unqualified to give such opinion because he had not adequately compared Signal's practices to others in the industry. Magistrate Judge Hawthorn also excluded opinions that attempted to interfere with the jury's role, such as the one that said Signal did not force or coerce the workers into staying in the man camp. He narrowed the opinions of experts on both sides regarding human trafficking, noting they could only speak generally on the matter and not on whether there was or was not human trafficking in this case.

In March 2015, the court held that Texas laws should apply in the breach of contract and fraud claims, because it did not find that true conflict existed between Texas and other jurisdiction.

Also in March 2015, the magistrate judge recommended denying defendant Wilks's motion to dismiss filed in August. The reason was that the motion was untimely and lacked merit because the plaintiff's complaint offered sufficient facts that Wilks was in control of J&M, which was involved in the recruitment of plaintiffs. And in April 2016, the district judge adopted this recommendation to deny Wilks's motion to dismiss.

In July 2015, the court stayed the case after Signal filed for bankruptcy. In re Signal Int’l, Inc, et al., No. 15-11498 (Bankr. D. Del. July 12, 2015). As a part of the bankruptcy filings, the plaintiffs entered into a plan support agreement (PSA) which contemplated a settlement of the claims of this lawsuit against Signal entities through a consensual chapter 11 plan proposed by Signal. The PSA became effective on December 14, 2015. As of November 2016, the stay remains effective in light of Signal's ongoing bankruptcy case.

Anna Dimon - 05/14/2015
Soojin Cha - 11/20/2016


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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
Retaliation
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration
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
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1981
42 U.S.C. § 1985
Defendant(s) Billy R. Wilks
Dewan Consultants
Global Resources, Inc.
Gulf Coast Immigration Law Center
Indo-Amerisoft, L.L.C.
J & M Marine & Industrial LLC
J&M Associates of Mississippi, Inc.
Kurella Rao
Law Offices of Malvern C. Burnett
Malvern C. Burnett
Michael Pol
Sachin Dewan
Signal International, Inc.
Plaintiff Description 47 Indian guestworkers fraudulently recruited to work in the U.S.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
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-0012 : Achari v. Signal International, LLC (E.D. La.)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Threats to the Future of the Immigration Class Action
Washington University Journal of Law and Policy
By: Jill E. Family (Widener University School of Law)
Citation: 27 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 71 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:13-cv-00324-RC-ZJH (E.D. Tex.) 11/16/2016
IM-TX-0036-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 05/21/2013
IM-TX-0036-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Signal Defendants' Motion to Transfer 02/11/2014 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation Denying Defendant Signal's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 70). 06/17/2014
IM-TX-0036-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate 06/18/2014 (2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 127486)
IM-TX-0036-0004.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Burnett Defendants' Motion To Transfer 07/14/2014 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation Denying the Burnett Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 32) 08/04/2014
IM-TX-0036-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order on Signal's Motion to Compel (Doc. No. 127) 10/15/2014 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Severing and Transferring Signal's Cross-Claims to the Eastern District of Lousiana 12/08/2014 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Complaint 12/23/2014
IM-TX-0036-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation on Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss Defendant Michael Pol (Doc. No. 98) 01/27/2015 (2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 27601)
IM-TX-0036-0010.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendations on Signal's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 161) 02/04/2015
IM-TX-0036-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order on the Parties' Motions to Exclude Expert Testimony 02/12/2015 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re: Choice of Law 03/06/2015 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order re: Choice of Law 03/06/2015 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0017.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Signal's Motion for Sanctions (Doc. No. 235) and Motion to Re-Depose the Plaintiffs (Doc. No. 242) 03/17/2015 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation on Billy Wilks's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 229) 03/17/2015 (2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 50929)
IM-TX-0036-0015.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Limitations of Trial Time 03/17/2015 (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0016.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order denying motion to dismiss 03/17/2015 (2015 WL 1262286) (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plan Support Agreement 09/01/2015
IM-TX-0036-0020.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Status Report (Nov 8, 2016) 11/08/2016
IM-TX-0036-0019.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Clark, Ron (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0013 | IM-TX-0036-0016 | IM-TX-0036-0017 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Hawthorn, Zack (E.D. Tex.) [Magistrate]
IM-TX-0036-0002 | IM-TX-0036-0003 | IM-TX-0036-0004 | IM-TX-0036-0005 | IM-TX-0036-0006 | IM-TX-0036-0007 | IM-TX-0036-0008 | IM-TX-0036-0010 | IM-TX-0036-0011 | IM-TX-0036-0012 | IM-TX-0036-0014 | IM-TX-0036-0015 | IM-TX-0036-0018
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barnett, Keith (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-0009 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Birnbaum, Timothy H. (New York)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Bowness, Matthew J. (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Colby, Eben P. (Massachusetts)
IM-TX-0036-0020 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Duffle, Kara D. (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0009
Faulkner, Jaliya S. (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Fleming, John Howard (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-0009 | IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Ford, Kara D. (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-0020 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Landers, Daniella (Texas)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-0009 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Lentz, Kurt (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-0009 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Martinez, Mary Beth (New York)
IM-TX-0036-0009 | IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Mendel, Gabriel Adam (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Mock, Travis J. (New York)
IM-TX-0036-0009 | IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Nair, Anjali (Alabama)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Niemeyer, Heather M. (New York)
IM-TX-0036-0009 | IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Ramsey, Shane G (New York)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Shiu, Gary Ka-Kui (Texas)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Stewart, Meredith B. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Sulmers, Teresa L. (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0001 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Ward, Bryan M. (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bollman, Patricia Anne F. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Cerniglia, Timothy W. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Cornblatt, James L. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Gianna, Dominic Joseph (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Hangartner, Erin Casey (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Hasenkampf, Mitchell P. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Herman, Jonathan Marc (Texas)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Keller, Robert Louis (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Maney, Kevin P. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Masur Davis, Lauren C. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Rabbani, Elham (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Roux, Brian C. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Rydberg, Lance R. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Sandler, Bradford J. (Delaware)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Shapiro, Stephen H. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Ungar, Hal D. (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-9000
Weinberger, Alan Dean (Louisiana)
IM-TX-0036-0019 | IM-TX-0036-9000
Other Lawyers Adams, Daniel D. (New York)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Arvelo, Jose E. (District of Columbia)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Coco, Nathan F. (Texas)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Dorris, William E. (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Kinsella, Steven R. (Minnesota)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Mintz, Benjamin (New York)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Raptis, Stephen T. (District of Columbia)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Sabourian, Kayvon (Texas)
IM-TX-0036-0020
Werner, Daniel (Georgia)
IM-TX-0036-0020

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