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Yassin v. AR Enterprises LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 28, 2017




         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Adnan Yassin a/k/a Eddie Yassin (“Yassin”) has filed this lawsuit against Defendants AR Enterprises, LLC (“AR”) and Adnan Rahim (“Rahim”) (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging claims for breach of contract (“Count I”), quantum meruit (“Count II”) and forced labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPRA”) under 18 U.S.C. § 1589 (“Count III”). D. 1-1. Defendants have moved for partial summary judgment as to all Counts against AR and Count III against Rahim. D. 39. For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the motion.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is material if it carries with it the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law.” Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Sánchez v. Alvarado, 101 F.3d 223, 227 (1st Cir. 1996)). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations or denials in her pleadings, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but “must, with respect to each issue on which she would bear the burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in her favor.” Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano- Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). “As a general rule, that requires the production of evidence that is ‘significant[ly] probative.'” Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249) (alteration in original). The Court “view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable inferences in his favor.” Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009).

         III. Factual Background

         Both parties submitted statements of fact. D. 41; D. 42 at 2-5. Yassin did not respond to Defendants' statement of undisputed facts. However, Yassin's statement of facts, D. 42 at 2-5, and his affidavit, D. 42-1, reflect specific evidence indicating a dispute about some material facts. Accordingly, the Court considers the material facts submitted by both parties.

         Both Yassin and Rahim moved to the United States from Syria in 1991. D. 41, ¶¶ 1-2. In 2011, Yassin received Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), a temporary immigration status offered to foreign nationals temporarily prevented from returning safely to their home country due to temporary conditions such as ongoing conflict and environmental disaster. Id., ¶ 25; D. 42, ¶ 2; see Temporary Protected Status, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, (last updated December 28, 2017). Yassin and Rahim met in or around 1991, at which time Rahim helped Yassin to get a job as a dishwasher. D. 41, ¶¶ 3-4. Yassin spent time with Rahim's family and the two men were on friendly terms. Id., ¶¶ 5-10. Beginning in 1994 until sometime after 2000, Yassin sustained physical injuries as a result of a mugging, injuries from which caused him to be sent to the hospital, as well as a workplace accident. Id., ¶¶ 11-13. Yassin was totally incapacitated by his workplace injury. Id., ¶ 13. While incapacitated, Yassin could not support himself financially and lived with a mutual friend of his and Rahim's, Ousama Aamar (“Aamar”). Id., ¶¶ 15-16. Aamar and Rahim loaned Yassin money during this time. Id., ¶¶ 17, 21.

         In 2001, Rahim opened a gas station as a sole proprietorship located in Arlington, Massachusetts (“Arlington Gulf”). Id., ¶ 14. On December 14, 2012, Rahim formed AR to cease operating Arlington Gulf as a sole proprietorship. Id., ¶ 36. Yassin was employed at Arlington Gulf from May 2009 until November 2012. D. 42, ¶ 3. While employed at Arlington Gulf, Yassin drove himself to and from work each day. D. 41, ¶ 27. Yassin's responsibilities at the gas station included pumping gas, selling items in the snack shop, cleaning, keeping inventory and driving customers' cars to various off-site mechanics. D. 41-7 at 6; D. 42, ¶ 4. Yassin was paid $10 an hour in cash for pumping gas, but was not paid for his other responsibilities. D. 41-7 at 6; D. 42, ¶ 7. Yassin generally worked from noon until 9 p.m. pumping gas, but frequently stayed later or arrived earlier to fulfill his other unpaid responsibilities. D. 42-1, ¶¶ 5-6. Defendants dispute that Yassin was employed at Arlington Gulf, but do not offer any admissible evidence in support of their position asserted at the motion hearing that Yassin was “helping” at Arlington Gulf, rather than performing work commanded by another. See United States v. Callahan, 801 F.3d 606, 620 (6th Cir. 2015), cert. denied sub nom. Hunt v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1477 (2016) (defining “labor or services” for purposes of TVPRA). Accordingly, for the purposes of the summary judgment motion, the Court considers the term “labor or services . . . in accord with its ordinary meaning.” Callahan, 801 F.3d at 620 (quoting United States v. Marcus, 628 F.3d 36, 44 (2d Cir. 2010)).

         Another employee at Arlington Gulf who witnessed Yassin and Rahim's interactions during this time had not witnessed anything of a negative tenor. D. 41, ¶ 28. This is disputed by Yassin, who recalled Rahim asking him to pick up oxycodone prescriptions from a pharmacy on his behalf, which Yassin refused to do. Id., ¶ 31. Yassin testified that when he refused, on both occasions Rahim called him a “slave” and “mule, ” and threatened to report him to immigration. D. 41-7 at 8; D. 42, ¶ 11. Rahim testified that he did not threaten Yassin. D. 42-2 at 3. The nature of these insults is also disputed, because Aamar characterizes the insults as jokes between friends, D. 41-4 at 5, while another employee said that he considers the word “slave” in Arabic to be an insult that he does not often hear used. D. 41-6 at 3. On multiple other occasions, Yassin asked Rahim to be paid for all of his responsibilities working at Arlington Gulf, and in response Rahim said that if he tried to do anything about the nonpayment, Rahim would report Yassin to immigration and he would be deported because he did not have a green card. D. 41-7 at 8. As explained above, this is disputed by Rahim's testimony. D. 42 -2 at 3. Yassin testified that he took these threats seriously, believing that without a green card his immigration status would not allow him to legally work elsewhere. D. 42-1, ¶ 9. Rahim testified that he believed Yassin was subject to a pending deportation case and that he knew Yassin was concerned about being deported. D. 42-2 at 3.

         IV. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs instituted this action in Middlesex Superior Court on October 24, 2016. D. 1-1. Defendants removed the case to this Court on November 14, 2016. D. 1. The parties proceeded with discovery. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. D. 39. The Court heard the parties on the pending motion on November 1, 2017, and took this matter under advisement. D. 43.

         V. Discussion

         A. AR - Corporate Existence ...

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