A 51-year-old servant from India has dropped a suit she had filed accusing her Indian employers in Hyattsville of false imprisonment and involuntary servitude, attorneys said yesterday. A second suit accusing the employers of violating state minimum wage laws was settled for $3,500.
The two suits were brought in April, 1976, on behalf of Sugunammu Meesarapu, a widow from the Indian city of Narsapur. Mrs. Meesarapu arrived in America on Feb. 7, 1972, having flown by herself to New York's Kennedy Airport to cook and clean house for Jessie and Wilmer Hamilton, who also are from India and had retained her services some time earlier in that country.
Mrs. Meesarapu spent the next three years working in the Hamilton's apartment in Hyattsville. She left them in June, 1975, and the suits were filed ten months later.
The first suit, filed in Baltimore U.S. District Court, asserted that the Hamiltons had taken away Mrs. Meesarapu's passport, threatened her with arrest if she left their employ and forced her to sleep on a mat on the floor of the children's bedroom.
Those charges, which the Hamiltons denied, were dropped in mid-July for reasons Mrs. Meesarapu's lawyer declined to discuss.
"They did it because they could not prove the case," said Irving Dross, attorney for the Hamiltons, in a telephone interview yesterday. "We wanted to go to trial to vindicate ourselves." The lawsuit had contained charges, Dross said, that the Hamiltons "could not live with" had they been true.
The second suit, filed in Prince George's County Circuit Court, claimed that, based on state minimum wage laws, the Hamiltons owed Mrs. Meesarapu $15,000 in back pay. That suit was settled Aug. 3 for $3,500, and Dross said the Hamiltons are planning to file for bankruptcy because they cannot afford to pay the settlement.
"They are plain people," Dross said. "She is a secretarial employee and he is a student. They just don't have the funds."
Last January Dross said in an interview that he would argue that American minimum wage laws do not apply to the servants of persons here on diplomatic visas. Lawyers defending Mrs. Meesarapu contended that those laws did apply. "The minimum wage law is state law and the law makes no exception for aliens," said attorney Lawrence Coshnear.