Injured Imperial Palace Casino Construction Workers Sue Building Contractor for Negligence

Posted on: December 21, 2018, 05:41h. 

Last updated on: December 21, 2018, 05:48h.

Seven construction workers injured while building the Imperial Palace Casino on the Pacific island of Saipan — a US overseas territory — are suing their former bosses for damages, claiming “negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Imperial Palace Casino
Inadequate safety conditions led to a high number of injuries at the Imperial Palace construction site, but many workers were not permitted to visit the island’s hospital, according to a new lawsuit. (Image: Bloomberg)

The plaintiffs allege that Chinese firm Gold Mantis — one of the companies contracted to build the casino by develop Imperial Pacific International — violated numerous US labor laws by failing to provide safe working conditions and denying them access to professional medical care after they were injured.

The seven — all Chinese nationals — sustained injuries including a badly burned leg, a scalded hand, and a partially severed finger. They paid Gold Mantis large upfront fees to cover their airfare from China with the promise of well-paid work on Saipan but were in fact forced to work for less than the minimum wage — if they were paid at all – under “abusive and exploitative conditions,” according to the lawsuit.

Despite the severity of their injuries, Golden Mantis barred them from visiting the island’s hospital because they did not have legal work permits. The company told them they would be arrested if they sought medical treatment.

FBI Raids

In 2017, after one construction worker died after falling from a scaffold, the construction site was raided by the FBI, which uncovered widespread visa violations among the workers.

Several of Imperial Pacific’s contractors — including Gold Mantis — were charged with labor violations, including importing and harboring undocumented workers. They were also ordered to pay millions in unpaid wages.

There has been significant publicity surrounding the illegally low wages paid by Gold Mantis and other contractors to their Chinese employees in Saipan as well as the U.S. Department of Labor’s settlements recovering that money,”  Aaron Halegua, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told CivilBeat on Wednesday.

“However, far less attention has been paid to the severe physical injuries suffered by many of those workers and the fact that many never received a penny of compensation. This lawsuit seeks to address that issue, at least for the seven workers involved.”

Grim Catalog

Some injured workers, it seems, did make it to the local hospital — in fact, a great many. When Bloomberg journalist Matthew Campbell visited Saipan earlier this year, he learned that so many laborers had been injured on site that the hospital kept an unofficial spreadsheet.

This read like “a grim catalog of broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds, dislocated limbs, and eyes penetrated by flying metal,” Campbell wrote.

While the Imperial Palace is partly open, construction work continues. Imperial Pacific recently missed its second deadline for completion — blaming a “lack of skilled labor.” Having been granted another extension by the island’s authorities — until February 2021 — the company promptly laid off 80 construction staff.