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Achari v. Signal Int'l, LLC

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

October 18, 2013

ACHARI, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
SIGNAL INT'L, LLC, ET AL., Defendants, CHAKKIYATTIL, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
SIGNAL INT'L, LLC, ET AL., Defendants, KRISHNAKUTTY, ET AL, Plaintiffs,
v.
SIGNAL INT'L, LLC, ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER CONSOLIDATING CASES AND TRANSFERRING TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., Chief District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are the Motion [33] to Consolidate filed by Signal International, Inc. and Signal International, LLC ("Signal") in cause no. 1:13cv222-LG-JMR, and the Motions to Transfer filed by Signal in each of the above-captioned cases (the "Mississippi cases"). The motions are opposed by the plaintiffs. After due consideration, the Court concludes that consolidation for the purpose of considering transfer is appropriate, and that the Mississippi cases should be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, where a substantially similar case was first filed and is pending. Accordingly, the motions to consolidate and transfer will be granted. The Court declines to rule on any remaining motions, leaving them for determination by the transferee court.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Signal seeks consolidation, stay and transfer of four cases to the Eastern District of Louisiana. The four are this case (" Achari "), Chakkiyattl v. Signal, No. 13cv318-LG-JMR (" Chakkiyattl "), Krishnakutty v. Signal, No. 13cv319-LG-JMR (" Krishnakutty "), and Devassy v. Signal, 1:13cv327-HSO-RHW (" Devassy ").[1] Signal argues that these cases are closely related to a similar lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana in March 2008, David, et al. v. Signal, et al., No. 2:08-CV-1220-JCZ-DEK (" David "). Signal submits that under the "first filed" rule, the four cases should be transferred so that their issues can be resolved with David.

The Eastern District of Louisiana district judge summarized the David plaintiffs' claims as alleging a scheme to lure foreign workers to work for Signal in Mississippi and Texas with the promise of permanent residence in the United States. Once in the United States, the David plaintiffs alleged they were subjected to discrimination and adverse working and living conditions. The plaintiffs allege that the recruitment defendants obtained millions of dollars in fees and Signal obtained workers for a lesser cost than if it hired American workers. David, Order & Reasons at 4, Jan. 4, 2012 (denying motion to certify class).

Signal is one of twelve defendants in David. [2] The plaintiffs in David are a number of Indian nationals who were Signal employees. Their Third Amended Complaint asserts violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1985, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and claims of fraud/negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract. Several plaintiffs also bring individual claims of retaliation under § 1981 and § 1985, and claims of false imprisonment, assault, battery, and infliction of emotional distress.

The plaintiffs in these Mississippi cases were previously among the plaintiffs in the David case who sought to be certified as a class. After class certification was denied by the Louisiana district court judge, they filed complaints in this Court.

The plaintiffs in Achari are a number of Indian nationals who allege that Signal, through recruiters, lured them to the United States to work in deplorable, discriminatory conditions with the promise of permanent U.S. residency. (Am. Compl. 3-7, ECF No. 26). They assert claims of violation of the TVPA, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract.

The plaintiffs in Chakkiyattil are a number of Indian nationals who allege that Signal, through recruiters, lured them to the United States to work in deplorable, discriminatory conditions with the promise of permanent U.S. residency. Chakkiyattil, No. 1:13cv318-LG-JMR, Compl. passim, ECF No. 1. They assert claims of violation of the TVPA, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract. Id. 111-121.

The plaintiffs in Krishnakutty are a number of Indian nationals who allege that Signal, through recruiters, lured them to the United States to work in deplorable, discriminatory conditions with the promise of permanent U.S. residency. Krishnakutty, No. 1:13cv319-LG-JMR, Compl. 2, ECF No. 1. They bring claims against all defendants for violation of the TVPA, RICO, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 & 1985, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, "money had and received, " breach of special/confidential relationship, and against certain defendants, breach of fiduciary duty.

The plaintiffs in Devassy are a number of Indian nationals who allege that Signal, through recruiters, lured them to the United States to work in deplorable, discriminatory conditions with the promise of permanent U.S. residency. Devassy, No. 1:13cv327-HSO-RHW, Compl. 1-2, ECF No. 1. They assert claims of violation of the TVPA, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Consolidate

Signal contends that the above cases should be consolidated only for the purpose of deciding whether the first-filed rule requires the Court to transfer the cases to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Signal argues that the first-filed rule applies ...


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