Friday, July 17, 2015

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK — Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC has announced that Joseph R. Bjarnson, an Associate with the firm, along with the firm’s co-counsel, was named 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Public Justice Foundation for his work as pro bono counsel in David, et al. v. Signal International, LLC, et al., No. 08-cv-1220 (E.D. La.). The legal team was honored at the Public Justice Foundation’s annual gala, which took place on July 13, 2015 at the Fairmont, Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, Canada.

On February 18, 2015, Mr. Bjarnson and the firm’s co-counsel helped obtain a $14 million federal jury verdict for five Indian national workers named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Signal International, a marine fabrication company. The suit claimed the company engaged in human trafficking, forced labor, racketeering and civil rights violations against them because of their nationality.

The lawsuit contended that Signal and the other defendants forced the workers to pay money upfront on the promise that they would receive permanent U.S. residency. Instead, they received temporary H-2B guest worker visas, were placed in overcrowded and heavily guarded labor camps, and were subjected to a hostile work environment. When the guest workers began to organize and air their grievances, the company had the camp raided, forcefully terminating and deporting some of the guest workers as an example to the other workers. On July 12, 2015, Signal International filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Since joining Sahn Ward Coschignano in 2012, Mr. Bjarnson has devoted hundreds of hours pro bono to this case, acting as lead counsel for the firm. The firm has served as co-counsel with attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, Crowell & Moring LLP, the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Louisiana Justice Institute.

“I am honored to receive this distinguished award and that our legal team has been recognized for its extraordinary efforts on behalf of the plaintiffs in this case,” Mr. Bjarnson said. “There are too many companies out there that take advantage of indigent or transient workers and we hope that our efforts will make an impact on bringing this type of injustice to an end. I also want to thank the Public Justice Foundation for not only presenting us with this prestigious honor, but for its ongoing pursuit of bringing wrongdoers to justice and representing those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.”

The Public Justice Foundation is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable membership organization that supports the work of Public Justice, a public interest law firm that pursues high-impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses. The Public Justice Foundation’s membership includes leading trial lawyers, appellate lawyers, consumer advocates, environmental attorneys, employment lawyers, civil rights attorneys, class action specialists, law professors, law students, public interest advocates, and other people who care about justice.

For more information on Sahn Ward Coschignano, call (516) 228-1300 or visit



About Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC

Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC is committed to providing its clients with the highest quality representation, counsel and advice. Practice areas include zoning and land use planning; real estate law and transactions; litigation and appeals; municipal law and legislative practice; cellular and telecommunications law; environmental, corporate, labor and employment law; tax certiorari and condemnation, matrimonial practice; and estate planning. The firm strives to assist its clients in a wide array of issues, serving them with skill and experience, resourcefulness and responsibility. For more information, call (516) 228-1300 or visit