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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 and/or the Border
Special Collection Signal International Guest Worker Cases
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
This case is part of the series of Signal International cases. It is stayed during defendant's bankruptcy and settlement proceedings.

On May 21, 2013, 33 Indian guestworkers filed this lawsuit in the U.S. ... read more >
This case is part of the series of Signal International cases. It is stayed during defendant's bankruptcy and settlement proceedings.

On May 21, 2013, 33 Indian guestworkers filed this lawsuit in the U.S. 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, David v. Signal International.

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. 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, asserted 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 were represented by a private law firm.

In Feb. 2014, Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn denied Signal's motion to transfer this case to the Eastern District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs in this case only overlapped with the David case insofar as their FLSA claims in the David case were concerned. Additionally, the plaintiffs in this case sued based on events at Signal's Orange, Texas site, whereas plaintiffs in cases pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana sued based on events at Signal's Pascagoula, Mississippi site. Although the Court declined to transfer this case, in May 2014, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn entered a consent order that discovery from the cases in the Eastern District of Louisiana would be allowed to be used here. Additionally, in Dec. 2014, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn severed and transferred Signal's cross-claims against co-defendants (immigration attorneys, recruiters, and labor brokers) to the Eastern District of Louisiana.

In Oct. 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. The Court warned that it would reconsider if Signal sought discovery that was clearly aimed at harassment. Plaintiffs did not comply with this order until Mar. 4, 2015, but the court denied Signal's motion for sanctions, saying its lack of diligence in pursuing the documents rendered it ineligible for relief.

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

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, with a liquidation trust for distribution of settlement proceeds, became effective on Dec. 14, 2015.

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.

In this case, Joseph, the parties are updating the court every 120 days as to the status of the bankruptcy proceedings. As of the parties' most recent Nov. 6, 2017 update to the Court, this settlement process remains ongoing.

The stay remains effective in light of Signal's ongoing bankruptcy case.

Anna Dimon - 05/14/2015
Soojin Cha - 11/20/2016
Ava Morgenstern - 12/02/2017


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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
Retaliation
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
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1981
42 U.S.C. § 1985
State law
Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. § 1589
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 Southern Poverty Law Center
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
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.)
Docket(s)
1:13-cv-00324-RC-ZJH (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-TX-0036-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Signal Defendants' Motion to Transfer [ECF# 74] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/11/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation Denying Defendant Signal's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 70). [ECF# 99]
IM-TX-0036-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate [ECF# 100] (2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 127486)
IM-TX-0036-0004.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/18/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Burnett Defendants' Motion To Transfer [ECF# 115] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/14/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation Denying the Burnett Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 32) [ECF# 124]
IM-TX-0036-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/04/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order on Signal's Motion to Compel (Doc. No. 127) [ECF# 148] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/15/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Severing and Transferring Signal's Cross-Claims to the Eastern District of Lousiana [ECF# 205] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/08/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Complaint [ECF# 208]
IM-TX-0036-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation on Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss Defendant Michael Pol (Doc. No. 98) [ECF# 216] (2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 27601)
IM-TX-0036-0010.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/27/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendations on Signal's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 161) [ECF# 219]
IM-TX-0036-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/04/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order on the Parties' Motions to Exclude Expert Testimony [ECF# 222] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/12/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re: Choice of Law [ECF# 241] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/06/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order re: Choice of Law [ECF# 241] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/06/2015
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) [ECF# 281] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation on Billy Wilks's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 229) [ECF# 282] (2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 50929)
IM-TX-0036-0015.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order denying motion to dismiss [ECF# 282] (2015 WL 1262286) (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Limitations of Trial Time [ECF# 286] (E.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0036-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plan Support Agreement [ECF# 279-1]
IM-TX-0036-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/01/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Status Report (Nov 8, 2016) [ECF# 341]
IM-TX-0036-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Sixth Status Report [ECF# 344]
IM-TX-0036-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/07/2017
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
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-0036-0021 | 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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