US judge: casino builder Saipan must pay 7 ex-workers $ 5.4 million

HONOLULU (AP) – A judge in Saipan Island, Pacific, United States, on Monday ordered a Hong Kong company to pay a total of $ 5.4 million to seven Chinese construction workers for forcing them to work long hours in dangerous conditions to build a casino, while they were denied medical treatment for injuries and threatened with deportation and death.

Chief Justice Ramona Manglona of the United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, said she delivered her ruling after Hong Kong’s Imperial Pacific International failed to comply with repeatedly court orders to exchange information with trial plaintiffs.

Compensation covers loss of income and future loss of income for workers, payments for emotional distress, pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.

Imperial Pacific International did not immediately return a message requesting comment sent to an email address on its website.

The plaintiffs sued Imperial Pacific with Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC and MCC International Saipan, Ltd. The latter two companies have previously settled with the plaintiffs.

Separately in 2018, U.S. officials announced regulations requiring Gold Mantis, MCC and two other Chinese construction companies to pay 2,400 workers on the casino project $ 14 million in back wages and damages.

U.S. officials said the companies, which had been hired by Imperial Pacific, brought workers to Saipan on tourist visas, paid them less than required by law and failed to secure proper work authorization. by operating a visa waiver program that allows Chinese citizens to travel to the North. Mariana Islands.

In Tuesday’s decision, Manglona found that plaintiff Tianming Wang suffered burns to his lower left leg when a spark ignited as he was cutting a metal barrel under the direction of his supervisor Gold Mantis. The supervisor told Wang that he would be arrested if he went to the hospital and instead gave him two rolls of gauze. A doctor who later examined Wang said he suffered from chronic pain and numbness, and his left muscles had atrophied. Wang has had difficulty walking for more than 15 minutes and has been unable to work since returning to China, the judge said.

The judge said Imperial Pacific “was deeply involved in the selection and supervision of contractors.” She said Imperial Pacific was aware of its contractors’ policies on hours of work and penalties, performed health and safety inspections, housed workers and transported workers to and from the construction site.

The judge awarded the seven plaintiffs $ 5.9 million in damages to Imperial Pacific, but subtracted the amount Gold Mantis and MCC had already agreed to pay them from the total.

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