COA won’t rehear injured immigrant worker’s case

July 13, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals will not revisit its divided ruling that an injured masonry laborer’s immigration status is valid evidence in his lawsuit against the general contractor at his worksite.

Noe Escamilla was born in Mexico but now lives in Indiana, where he was injured in 2010 on a job site where he worked as a subcontractor on a project overseen by general contractor Shiel Sexton. He sued the company, seeking medical expenses, lost wages and future income. He claimed his injury, in which he slipped on ice and severely injured his back, has left him unable to work as a mason.

The trial court ruled that two witnesses who reviewed his U.S. tax returns couldn’t testify about his lost future earnings in the trial on his tort claim. Shiel Sexton’s attorney argued that because Escamilla is a lawful resident of Mexico, any lost wages claimed should be based on the rate of pay in Mexico, not the U.S.

The COA found his immigration status is necessary evidence in figuring out how much money he should receive. He and the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association argued that the evidence of his status is prejudicial in today’s climate so the report’s probative value is outweighed.

Judge John Baker dissented in the March 31 decision, and dissented again on the decision not to rehear the case. Escamilla filed his petition for rehearing in April.

“… I wish to reiterate the position that I expressed in greater detail in my previous dissenting opinion. I believe that knowledge of a party’s immigration status alone sheds no meaningful light on the question of whether that party will one day face deportation. Such information cannot be ‘considered,’ in any real sense of the word, and can serve only as a basis for speculation that will likely result in prejudice. I would vote to grant the petition for rehearing as I believe that the majority should address these concerns,” he wrote in Noe Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Company, Inc. (dissent on rehearing), 54A01-1506-CT-602.


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