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Case Name Marimuthu v. Signal International, LLC IM-TX-0039
Docket / Court 1:13-cv-00499 ( E.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Signal International Guest Worker Cases
Case Summary
This case is part of the series of Signal International cases. It is stayed during defendant's bankruptcy and settlement proceedings. Defendant’s bankruptcy terminated February 9, 2019, but the parties continue to ... read more >
This case is part of the series of Signal International cases. It is stayed during defendant's bankruptcy and settlement proceedings. Defendant’s bankruptcy terminated February 9, 2019, but the parties continue to coordinate the distribution of the settlement funds.

On Aug. 7, 2013, ten Indian guestworkers filed a 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 Jan. 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 was based in Pascagoula, Mississippi and was in the business of providing repairs to offshore oil rigs in the Gulf Coast region. The complaint alleged 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 ($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.

Plaintiffs asserted claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (18 U.S.C. §1589 (forced labor) and 18 U.S.C. §1590 (trafficking)), 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 private law firms.

In July 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. Magistrate Judge Hawthorn also issued a report and recommendation on July 30, 2014, denying Signal's motion to dismiss, holding that plaintiffs had pleaded enough factual content to draw the reasonable inference that the alleged pendent state law claims occurred in Texas, so that the Court had personal jurisdiction over defendants for alleged tortious acts committed there. Judge Crone adopted Magistrate Judge Hawthorn's report and recommendation on Sept. 9, 2014.

On Sept. 16, 2014, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to allege that the Burnett (immigration attorney) defendants had violated the Ku Klux Klan Act and state tort law. On Feb. 27, 2015, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn recommended denying the Burnett defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiffs had validly pleaded the new claims. Judge Crone adopted this report and recommendation on Mar. 23, 2015.

In June 2015, 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.

While discovery was underway, the Court stayed the case in July 2015 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, Marimuthu, the parties are updating the court every 120 days as to the status of the bankruptcy proceedings. In September 2018, the court dismissed one plaintiff who became non-responsive and could not be located.

As of the parties' most recent July 3, 2019 update to the Court, the remaining nine plaintiffs had reached a settlement with the Burnett (immigration attorney) defendants. The plaintiffs advised that they would be dismissing their claims against them soon because the Burnett defendants had met their obligations under the settlement. In addition, the plaintiffs reached a settlement with the Dewan (recruiter) defendants. They similarly had met their obligations and the plaintiffs planned to dismiss claims against them. The status report also noted that the Signal bankruptcy proceeding was closed on February 5, 2019. Part of the plan was to distribute the proceeds of the Signal Litigation Trust to plaintiffs, but none had been distributed. The automatic stay was no longer in effect because the bankruptcy case terminated. The plaintiffs asked the court to further stay the case while they coordinated dismissal of the Burnett and Dewan defendants and awaited distribution for the Signal Litigation Trust.

This case is ongoing. As of February 27, 2021, there have been no additional status reports.

Anna Dimon - 05/15/2015
Ava Morgenstern - 03/14/2018
Emily Kempa - 02/27/2021


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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
42 U.S.C. § 1985
State law
Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. § 1589
Defendant(s) Dewan Consultants
Global Resources, Inc.
Gulf Coast Immigration Law Center
Indo-Amerisoft, L.L.C.
Law Offices of Malvern C. Burnett
Malvern C. Burnett
Sachin Dewan
Signal International, Inc.
Plaintiff Description 10 Indian guestworkers fraudulently recruited to work in the U.S.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filed 08/07/2013
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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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
E.D. Tex.
09/13/2018
1:13-cv-499
IM-TX-0039-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Tex.
08/07/2013
Complaint and Jury Demand [ECF# 1]
IM-TX-0039-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
07/16/2014
Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Transfer [ECF# 58]
IM-TX-0039-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
07/30/2014
Report and Recommendation Denying Defendant Signal's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 24) [ECF# 60]
IM-TX-0039-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
08/01/2014
Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge [ECF# 61] (2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 126783)
IM-TX-0039-0004.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
08/12/2014
Report and Recommendation Granting in Part the Burnett Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 64] (2014 WL 12744039)
IM-TX-0039-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
09/09/2014
Order Adopting Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge [ECF# 68]
IM-TX-0039-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
09/16/2014
First Amended Complaint and Jury Demand [ECF# 76]
IM-TX-0039-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
09/16/2014
First Amended Complaint and Jury Demand [ECF# 76]
IM-TX-0039-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
02/27/2015
Report and Recommendation on Burnett's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 77) [ECF# 126] (2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 36743)
IM-TX-0039-0006.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
07/07/2017
Plaintiffs' Notice Updating the Court on Status of the Signal Bankruptcy Proceeding as of July 7, 2017 [ECF# 146]
IM-TX-0039-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
09/09/2017
Order Adoping Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge [ECF# 70]
IM-TX-0039-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
11/06/2017
Plaintiffs' Notice Updating the Court on Status of the Signal Bankruptcy Proceeding as of March 8, 2017 [ECF# 147]
IM-TX-0039-0012.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
07/03/2019
Plaintiffs' Notice Updating the Court on Status of the Signal Bankruptcy Proceeding as of July 3, 2019 [ECF# 155]
IM-TX-0039-0013.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Crone, Marcia A. (S.D. Tex., E.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Hawthorn, Zack (E.D. Tex.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-0002 | IM-TX-0039-0003 | IM-TX-0039-0004 | IM-TX-0039-0006 | IM-TX-0039-0007 | IM-TX-0039-0008 | IM-TX-0039-0009 | IM-TX-0039-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dorsey, James E (Minnesota) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-0001 | IM-TX-0039-0005 | IM-TX-0039-0010 | IM-TX-0039-0011 | IM-TX-0039-0012 | IM-TX-0039-0013 | IM-TX-0039-9000
Findlay, Eric Hugh (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-0001 | IM-TX-0039-0005 | IM-TX-0039-0010 | IM-TX-0039-0011 | IM-TX-0039-0012 | IM-TX-0039-0013 | IM-TX-0039-9000
Findlay, Michael Douglas (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-0001 | IM-TX-0039-0005 | IM-TX-0039-0010 | IM-TX-0039-0011 | IM-TX-0039-9000
Fraser, Thomas S (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Hoidal, Sten-Erik (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Hoppe, Lousene (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Johnson, Andrew Francis (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Lackey, Walter Wayne Jr (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-0013 | IM-TX-0039-9000
O'Shea, Timothy (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Bollman, Patricia Anne F. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Cerniglia, Timothy W. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Cornblatt, James L. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Davis, Lauren Masur (Louisiana) show/hide docs
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Hangartner, Erin Casey (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Hasenkampf, Mitchell P. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Herman, Jonathan Marc (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Keller, Robert Louis (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Maney, Kevin P. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
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Masur Davis, Lauren C. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
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Rabbani, Elham (Louisiana) show/hide docs
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Roux, Brian C. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Rydberg, Lance R. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Shapiro, Stephen H. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Ungar, Hal D. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000
Weinberger, Alan Dean (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0039-9000

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