Immigration status not discoverable in 9th Circuit
Abuse of injured immigrants is an old story. I once knew an insurance claims manager who was very proud of his tactics in dealing with Hispanic immigrants who had injury claims. First, he told them, “No English, no dinero.” Second, he would schedule meetings with claimants and get someone from INS to show up, check their papers, and if possible deport them so that he could get by without paying for their injury. (Yes, he worked for AIG, the company whose recently deposed CEO sent out a memo as Hurricane Andrew approached Miami several years ago, talking about what a great opportunity the hurricane would give the company to raise premiums.)
That claims manager and his soulmates would be disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has recently let stand a lower court decision that a plaintiff’s immigration status is not discoverable because the “chilling effect of such discovery . . . unacceptably burdens the public interest.” Rivera v. NIBCO, Inc., 364 F.3d 1057 (9th Cir. 2004). Rivera provides precedent for attorneys bringing claims on behalf of immigrants whose immigration status might be in question. New immigrants are disproportionately employed in highly hazardous occupations and suffer injury and death at rates markedly higher than other workers. Too often, immigrant workers forgoe legitimate claims when their rights are violated. Immigrant workers frequently fear that seeking legal advice may adversely effect their immigration status or that their undocumented status might be exposed. By forgoing legitimate claims, injured immigrants are marginalized further when they are unable to obtain and pay for proper medical care and unable to obtain and pay for vocational training which would allow them to reenter the workforce. As a result, the party responsible for their injuries escapes accountability and the cycle of illegal conduct repeats itself. See article at Safety Lex.
Rivera is a labor case rather than a tort case, it is not binding authority in Georgia or in the 11th Circuit, and Georgia courts tend to give little weight to the “commie” Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But courts here may consider the reasoning as some persuasive authority in preventing some forms of abuse of injured immigrants in injury litigation.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).