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Abarca v. Little

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 22, 2014

Humberto Campis Abarca, Plaintiff,
v.
Patrick Little, an Individual and Chief Executive Officer of L & K Landscaping, Inc., a Minnesota corporation; L & K Tree & Shrub, Inc., a Minnesota corporation; Deborah Little an Individual and Chief Executive Officer of L & K Tree & Shrub, Inc.; Michael Kuka, an Individual and Co-Owner of L & K Landscaping, Inc. and L & K Landscaping, Inc., Defendants

Page 1065

For plaintiff: Angela Bortel, Esq., Bortel Firm, LLC, Minneapolis, MN.

For Defendants: Robin E. Shea, Esq., Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, Winston-Salem, NC; Ellen A. Brinkman, Esq., Briggs & Morgan, PA, Minneapolis, MN.

Page 1066

ORDER

David S. Doty, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss by defendants Patrick Little, L& K Landscaping, Inc., L& K Tree & Shrub, Inc., Deborah Little, and Michael Kuka. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion.

BACKGROUND

This human rights case arises out of plaintiff Humberto Campis Abarca's employment relationship with defendants. Campis is a Mexican national who speaks limited English. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. Patrick Little owns and operates L& K Landscaping, Inc. and L& K Tree & Shrub, Inc., along with his wife, Deborah Little, and their business partner Michael Kuka. Id. ¶ ¶ 6-10.

In approximately 2000, Patrick Little offered Campis employment with L& K Tree & Shrub in St. Michael, Minnesota and promised to obtain a work visa for him. Id. ¶ ¶ 7-8, 14-15. Little instructed Campis to return to Mexico to get the visa and loaned him money to support his family in the interim. Id. ¶ ¶ 16-17. In December 2001, Campis appeared at the U.S. Consulate in Mexico for a visa interview arranged by Little. Id. ¶ 18. Campis was denied a visa because of prior illegal entries into the United States. Id. When Campis called Little to tell him about the denied visa, Little told him that he needed to return to Minnesota to pay off the loan. Id. ¶ 19. Little also told Campis that he would pay for Campis's illegal entry into the United States and arrange for a legal visa the following year. Id. Little paid for a coyote to smuggle Campis into the United States. Id. ¶ ¶ 20-21. When Campis arrived in Minnesota in April 2002, Little told him that he would have to work off the loan and the cost of the coyote. Id. ¶ 21. Little did not disclose the total amount of the debt. Id.

Campis alleges that Little treated him poorly over the next year, yelling at him and threatening to hit him. Id. At some point, Little instructed Campis to return to Mexico to secure a visa. Id. ¶ 22. Campis did so, but the visa was again denied and Campis was told that he would have to wait five years to submit another visa application. Id. ¶ 23. Campis illegally returned to the United States to work for defendants. Id. Little again paid for the trip from Mexico and added the cost to Campis's debt. Id. ¶ ¶ 22-24. Little told Campis that he had to pay off the debt and that if he failed to do so, Little would find him in Mexico. Id. ¶ 24. Little continued to refuse to disclose the debt amount to Campis. Id. ¶ 24. This cycle repeated each year; Campis would go back to Mexico in December and return to the United States in April. Id. ¶ 28.

When in the United States, Campis and defendants' other employees lived in housing provided by defendants. Id. ¶ 33. Campis alleges that the living conditions were poor. For example, there were porta-potties instead of bathrooms, no showers, no consistent running water, bunk beds crammed in a small hallway to accommodate 25 people, rats, and no climate control. Id. ¶ ¶ 33-34. The employees paid $100 per month in rent to Little. Id. ¶ 35. The other employees routinely asked Campis to talk to Little about their living conditions because they were afraid to do so. Id. ¶ 32. Campis asked Little

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many times about renting another house for employees and each time Little threatened to send Campis and the others back to Mexico. Id . ¶ 36.

Campis alleges that defendants required him to work 11-12 hours each day with few breaks and little pay, pay for his own food, and pay part of the cost of a shared vehicle. Id. ¶ ¶ 38-40, 43, 48. Campis also alleges that Little was verbally abusive and intimidating, even brandishing a gun on several occasions. Id. ¶ ¶ 37, 50. The working conditions were also unsafe, and Campis complained to Little, to no avail. Id. ¶ 47.

In December 2007, Little instructed Campis to return to Mexico, but he had no money to travel so he stayed in defendants' housing. Id. ¶ 53. Little and Kuka threatened Campis until he finally left on approximately March 12, 2008. Id. ¶ ¶ 54, 56. In May 2008, Campis's family received threatening phone calls in Mexico, the content of which are not described in the complaint. ...


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