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Igor Kalyta, et al v. Versa Products

March 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cooper, District Judge



Plaintiffs Igor Kalyta ("Kalyta") and his wife Oksana Maydanyuk (collectively "Plaintiffs") commenced this action against defendants Versa Products, Inc. ("Versa"), Home Depot, U.S.A., Inc. ("Home Depot"), Louisville Ladder ("LL"), G & L Products, Inc. ("G & L"), David R. Lambert ("Lambert"), and Grupo IMSA ("Grupo") (collectively, "Defendants"), seeking recovery for injuries Kalyta suffered falling from a ladder. (Dkt. entry no. 1, Compl.)*fn1 Defendants move for summary judgment in their favor pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56 on Kalyta's claim for lost wages, arguing that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, 8 U.S.C. § ("Section") 1324a, et seq. ("IRCA") bars that claim. (Dkt. entry no. 28.) Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (Dkt. entry nos. 29, 32.)

The Court decides the motion on the papers without oral argument, pursuant to Rule 78(b). The Court, for the reasons stated herein, will deny the motion.


The facts underlying this action are tangential to this motion for summary judgment on the lost wages claim and will thus be summarized briefly. Kalyta alleges he purchased a ladder in March 2004 from Home Depot, manufactured by G & L, and distributed by Versa. (Compl. at ¶ 15.) On July 21, 2005, Kalyta alleges he was using the ladder in a foreseeable manner, according to manufacturers' instructions, to perform his job installing a satellite dish approximately twelve feet above the ground. (Id. at ¶ 17.) After several minutes, Kalyta alleges, the ladder collapsed, causing him severe injury. (Id. at ¶ 18.)

Plaintiffs brought this action on March 22, 2007, asserting ten claims against Defendants, inter alia, that they (1) were negligent in making the ladder, selling it, or failing to warn of its dangers, (2) fraudulently or negligently misrepresented the ladder's safety, (3) were strictly liable for its malfunction, and (4) violated the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 2051, in failing to report that the same ladder had been the subject of other actions to recover damages for personal injury. (See generally id.) Plaintiffs seek, among other damages, "[c]ompensatory damages for . . . loss of income." (Id. at ¶ 89.) This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1332.

Defendants now contend that Kalyta should not be permitted to recover for past and future lost wages because he is not, and was not at the time of the accident, authorized to work in the United States. (Dkt. entry no. 28, Def. Br. at 1-3.) Defendants assert that Kalyta came to the United States on a student visa, but instead of enrolling in school he immediately began working, first doing asbestos removal and then installing satellite dishes. (Id. at 2.) In support of this argument, Defendants submit a copy of Kalyta's visa, his driver's license, and his Social Security card which specifically notes that the number was valid for work only with authorization from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. (Dkt. entry no. 28, Ex. C at 3, Soc.Sec. Card.)*fn2 Defendants also provide a portion of Kalyta's deposition, in which he testified that he was never a student here, but came to the United States on a student visa that expired in 2007. (Dkt. entry no. 28, Ex. A, 6-12-08 Kalyta Dep. at 8, 19.)*fn3


I. Summary Judgment Standard

The standard for a motion for summary judgment is well-settled and will be briefly summarized here. Rule 56 provides that summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To make this determination, the Court must "view[] the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[] all inferences in that party's favor." United States ex rel. Josenske v. Carlisle HMA, Inc., 554 F.3d 88, 94 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Abramson v. William Patterson Coll., 260 F.3d 265, 276 (3d Cir. 2001)).

II. Standards of Recovery for Undocumented Workers

"Each person is entitled to the equal protection of the law" and "every alien, whether in this country legally or not, has a right to sue those who physically injure him." Hagl v. Jacob Stern & Sons, Inc., 396 F.Supp. 779, 784 (E.D. Pa. 1975) (citing Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634, 641-42 (1973); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 371 (1971); Torao Takahashi v. Fish & Game Comm'n, 334 U.S. 410 (1948); Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886)); see also Lozano v. City of Hazleton, 620 F.3d 170, 194 (3d Cir. 2010) ("whatever a person's immigration status, an alien is surely a person entitled to Due Process Clause protections . . . The Supreme Court therefore has certainly considered judicial challenges brought by persons lacking lawful immigration status") (internal quotation and citation omitted); Mischalski v. Ford Motor Co., 935 F.Supp. 203, 204 (E.D.N.Y. 1996) ("a plaintiff's illegal alien status is not a bar to recovery in federal court").

Defendants do not assert that Kalyta's recovery of non-economic damages would conflict with IRCA. (See Def. Br.) However, the question of economic damages is different because of the national policy embodied in IRCA, which is a "comprehensive scheme prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens in the United States." Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 147 (2002). Hoffman is the most recent Supreme Court case to address the rights of undocumented workers in the face of IRCA, and arose in the context of an action contesting an order of the National Labor Relations Board ("Board") awarding back-pay ...

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