United States District Court, D. Oregon, Pendleton Division
RONALDO SERPAS PARADA, personal representative of the estate of RODOLFO PEREZ SERPAS, Plaintiff,
MJ'S LABOR SERVICES, INC., a domestic corporation; JAMES MAGOTEAUX; and JANI MAGOTEAUX, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
PATRICIA SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action concerns conditions at MJ's Motel in Boardman,
Oregon, where former plaintiff Rodolfo Perez Serpas stayed in
2016. Following Perez Serpas' death in March 2018,
plaintiff Ronaldo Serpas Parada was appointed his personal
representative and was substituted as plaintiff in this
matter. (Docket Nos. 77, 79). Perez Serpas stayed at MJ's
Motel while working for defendant MJ's Labor Services,
Inc. (“MJ's Labor”), a labor and contracting
service. Defendants James and Jani Magoteaux (the
“Magoteaux defendants”) own both MJ's Motel
and MJ's Labor. Perez Serpas experienced a bed bug
infestation in his room at MJ's Motel.
have moved for summary judgment, which plaintiff opposes.
(Docket Nos. 29, 41). The Court heard oral argument on May
21, 2019 (Docket Nos. 82, 84, 85), and ordered supplemental
briefing (Docket Nos. 86-88, 91, 92).
following reasons, the Court GRANTS, IN PART, AND DENIES, IN
PART, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
plaintiff Perez Serpas was a migrant farmworker who
temporarily lived and worked in Oregon for several years. Del
Carlo Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. A, Hereford 30(b)(6) Dep. 13:6-20
(Docket No. 51). During the 2016 season, Perez Serpas worked
for MJ's Labor. Id.; James Magoteaux Decl.
¶¶ 6 & 7 (Docket No. 31); Del Carlo Decl.
¶ 11, Ex. J, 397 (Docket No. 46).
Magoteaux defendants are a married couple who own MJ's
Labor as a closely-held corporation. Hereford Dep. 14:6-8,
16-19; Magoteaux Decl. ¶ 2. Jani Magoteaux and James
Magoteaux own 60% and 40% of the shares of MJ's Labor,
respectively. Del Carlo Decl. ¶ 10, Ex. I, 265-272
(Docket No. 45). All of MJ's Labor's employees are
agricultural workers, except their administrative employees.
Hereford Dep. 17:1-5; Del Carlo Decl. ¶ 9, Ex. H, Perez
Serpas Dep. 9:8-24 (Docket No. 50). MJ's Labor employs
approximately 600 workers during its peak season, August to
October, and 200 workers in the off season. Hereford Dep.
Labor is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and the
Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries as a farm labor
contractor. Del Carlo Decl., Ex. I, 265-278. Jani Magoteaux
is licensed with the state as a farm labor contractor. Del
Carlo Decl. ¶ 14, Ex. Q; Ex. I, 137, 221-33, 273-278.
James Magoteaux is licensed by the federal government as a
farm labor contractor. Del Carlo Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. B, James
Magoteaux Dep. 19:9-12 (Docket No. 50).
argues that defendants use the name “MJ's
Motel” to describe the part of MJ's Labor's
business that provides housing to its workers. The name
“MJ's Motel” appears not to have been
registered as a business entity with the state of Oregon
prior to commencement of this action. Bradley Decl. ¶ 5,
Ex. O (Docket No. 43-1). Plaintiff argues that there is a
“tight nexus” between MJ's Labor, the
Magoteauxs, and MJ's Hotel. In applications to the U.S.
Department of Labor to register as a farm labor contractor,
MJ's Labor represented for multiple years that it owned
or controlled a migrant housing facility. Del Carlo Decl.,
Ex. I, 84, 101, 222, 265-72. It submitted documents to the
department stating that it is a “housing
provider” at a location “commonly known as
MJ's Motel.” Id., 88, 106, 226, 269. The
department's farm labor contractor database shows that
MJ's Labor was granted worker housing authorization.
Bradley Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. L (Docket No. 43-1). Many of
MJ's Motel's occupants are MJ's Labor employees.
Del Carlo Decl., Ex. J, 405. MJ's Motel's manager is
Yeni Gordillo, whom MJ's Labor pays and provides
benefits, and whose husband works for MJ's Labor.
Hereford Dep. 22:8-24, 33:22-24, 60:25-61:4. Brent Hereford,
MJ's Labor's business manager, performs most of
MJ's Motel's clerical and administrative work.
Id. 63:4-14. Hereford completed and filed documents
to register “MJ's Motel, Inc.” with the state
of Oregon as a business corporation in June 2017, after this
action commenced. Id. 53:18-54:1. Other MJ's
Labor staff, including Iris Chavez, regularly operate
MJ's Motel. Id. 44:25-47; Del Carlo Decl. ¶
7, Ex. F, Chavez Dep. 9:11-22, 22:2-25:2 (Docket No. 45).
MJ's Labor runs vans for its workers, which stop at
MJ's Motel daily to provide transportation to and from
work sites. Hereford Dep. 25:4-6; Del Carlo Decl. ¶ 6,
Ex. E, Izquierdo Dep. 46:1-9 (Docket No. 45). MJ's Labor
has an office at MJ's Motel where its employees can pick
up paychecks. Hereford Dep. 27:17-28:15. MJ's Labor,
under its prior name, “MJ's Labor Contractors,
” signed the leases of the building and land where
MJ's Motel is located. Del Carlo Decl. Ex. J, 144, 260,
points to other distinct aspects of MJ's Motel, arguing
that it does not operate on a regular commercial basis as a
regular commercial motel. It does not have a vacancy sign,
does not take reservations, assigns roommate lodgers who are
strangers on a space-available basis, does not have a website
or advertising other than a phone book listing, has no way of
indicating from the street whether a room is available,
accepts only cash payments, does not supply towels, and pays
no salary to anyone. Izquierdo Dep. 23:21-23, 28:6-7,
38:8-10, 38:8-19, 44:10-20, 46:1-9; Hereford Dep. 22:4-24;
Magoteaux Dep. 28:6-7. MJ's Motel has run at a loss of
approximately $18, 000 the past two years, although
defendants' various businesses, considered together, are
profitable. Hereford Dep. 58:1-4, 59:8-10, 60:17-19; Del
Carlo Decl. Ex. J, 155-169, 182; Magoteaux Dep. 30:7-18.
characterize MJ's Motel as an assumed business name for a
partnership the Magoteauxs use to operate a motel business
separate from MJ's Labor. Magoteaux Decl. ¶ 2.
Defendants contend that they operate MJ's Motel as a
budget motel for those who cannot afford other
accommodations. Id. ¶ 4. It is licensed by
Umatilla County as a tourist accommodation and is certified
by the County Health Department. Id. ¶ 13, Ex.
4 (Docket No. 31-4). Rooms are cleaned daily and fresh sheets
are given upon a patron's initial arrival. Magoteaux
Decl. ¶ 4. MJ's Motel is open to the public, and
customers include referrals from local churches, migrant
agricultural workers, and temporary construction workers.
Id. ¶ 3. Agricultural workers pay the same
rates and have the same room types as the general public.
Id. MJ's Labor states that it does not provide
housing for employees. Id. ¶ 14, Ex. 5 (Docket
No. 31-5). MJ's Labor does not have any ownership
interest in MJ's Motel, and they are separate and operate
independently. Magoteaux Decl. ¶ 5.
Perez Serpas and MJ's Motel
March 2016, Perez Serpas arrived in Oregon from California
and began working for MJ's Labor. Perez Serpas need a
place to stay, and Don Luis, an MJ's Labor supervisor,
directed him to MJ's Motel. Perez Serpas Dep. 14:9-21;
17:10-25, 18:3-4. Perez Serpas rented a room at MJ's
Motel, paying $40.00 per week, the standard rate. Del Carlo
Decl. Ex. J, 397; Magoteaux Decl. ¶ 7; Perez Serpas Dep.
30:6-10. MJ's Labor's vans transported Perez Serpas
between MJ's Motel and work. Id. 41:1-4, 48:1-4.
Perez Serpas checked into MJ's Motel in April 2016,
Gordillo placed him room 10, but at the end of May 2016,
Gordillo moved him to room 14. Izquierdo Dep. 10:3-5; Del
Carlo Ex. I, 80. In room 14, Perez Serpas immediately began
suffering bed bug bites. Perez Serpas Dep. 15:1-23, 33:1-8,
34:5-8, 80:9-14. He complained about the bed bugs to Gordillo
and her husband on a weekly basis, but when he asked them to
move him to another room, they refused. Id. 15:8-16,
34:5-16, 72:4-20. Gordillo reported Perez Serpas'
complaints to James Magoteaux. Izquierdo Dep. 13:10-19. Perez
Serpas filed complaints with MJ's Labor to Norma Silva
and Iris Chavez, who told James Magoteaux. Perez Serpas Dep.
68:2-15; Chavez Dep. 19:1-25; Del Carlo Decl. Ex. I, 80, 81.
Defendants did not change Perez Serpas' room, offer to
help him find other quarters, change his bed, or refund his
money; instead they told Perez Serpas he had to stay in the
room, sleep in the bed, and cope with the infestation,
despite other rooms being available on multiple occasions.
Hereford Dep. 55:16-56:5, 57:17-25; Izquierdo Dep. 15:6-16,
50:15-20, 49:21-50:3; Del Carlo. Ex. J, 372-389, 416; Del
Carlo Decl. ¶ 13, Ex. P (Docket No. 48). Defendants had
sprayed the whole Motel for bed bugs in 2014, and room 14
specifically multiple times in 2015 and 2016. Del Carlo. Ex.
J, 229, 289-298 & Ex. I, 82; Chavez Dep. 23:9-12.
Perez Serpas complained of the bed bugs, defendants hired
Rose Hart Pest Control to treat the room, which it did three
times, each treatment consisting of three separate pesticide
applications. Magoteaux Decl. ¶ 8. The spraying,
however, did not resolve the infestation. Perez Serpas Dep.
58:13, 68:24-69:1, 79:2-80:4, 81:11-17. Instead, Perez Serpas
lived with the bed bugs for months, experiencing great
physical pain and distress, including itching, anxiety, the
sensation of insects crawling on his skin, humiliation, and
insomnia. Id. Some of the bug bites became infected,
but because of his shame over the affliction, he did not seek
medical treatment. Id. Perez Serpas and his roommate
began sleeping on the floor to avoid the infested mattresses,
where they could see bed bugs and eggs. Id. 61:2-21.
Gordillo performed a perfunctory clean-up of room 14, and
also left Perez Serpas a broom to clean it himself.
argue that the repeated failure of treatments to clear the
bed bugs indicated that Perez Serpas himself was the source
of the infestation, and so he needed to vacate the room.
Magoteaux Decl. ¶ 9. In October 2016, defendant James
Magoteaux gave Perez Serpas an eviction notice, implying that
he may have been the source of the bugs, stating that they
needed to treat the room, and saying that they did not want
bed bugs to spread. Perez Serpas Dep. 34:13-16, 68:2-19,
73:17-29, 86:9-16; Del Carlo Decl. ¶ 12, Ex. K (Docket
No. 47); Magoteaux Decl. ¶ 10. Initially, Perez Serpas
was unable to find other housing because of a shortage of
low-cost housing, and friends' refusals to allow him to
stay with them due to fear of bed bugs. Perez Serpas Dep.
31:18-23, 56:9-13, 59:9-13, 66:13-17, 73:1-7. After
defendants gave Perez Serpas a second eviction notice, he
found himself with nowhere to go and unable to tolerate
MJ's Motel's conditions, so he slept in his car for
two weeks. Id. 16:4-5, 22:9-12, 80:24-81-2.
file their Motion for Summary Judgment against
First Amended Complaint (Docket No. 9) brings five claims for
Violations of the Migrant Seasonal Agricultural Worker
Protection Act (“AWPA”), 29 U.S.C. §§
Violations of the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act
(“UTPA”), Or. Rev. Stat. § 646.608(1), for
misrepresenting and falsely advertising the nature of
MJ's Motel, disparaging Perez Serpas through the eviction
notice, and failing to disclose known defects and
noncompliance with the Oregon Travelers' Accommodation
Transacting business as unregistered assumed business name,
id. § 648.135(2); and
Violations of the Oregon Contractor Registration Act
(“OCRA”), id. §
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The burden
is on the moving party to point out the absence of any
genuine issue of material fact; once the initial burden is
satisfied, the burden shifts to the opponent to demonstrate
through the production of probative evidence that there
remains an issue of fact to be tried. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In opposing summary
judgment, a party may not rely on mere allegations or denials
in pleadings, but must set forth specific facts supported by
competent evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Far Out Prods., Inc. v.
Oskar, 247 F.3d 986, 997 (9th Cir. 2001). On a motion
for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Robi v. Reed,
173 F.3d 736, 739 (9th Cir. 1999). “A fact issue is
genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable [fact
finder] could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc.,
281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted).
“The non-moving party has failed to meet its burden if
the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier
of fact to find for the non-moving party.” Intel
Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 952 F.2d
1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991) (quotation omitted). The
substantive law governing a claim ...