The world’s largest fruit and vegetable grower continues efforts to sidestep its responsibility to workers who were harmed by decades of exposure to toxic pesticides while working on Dole’s banana plantations. Dole’s latest attempts involve allegations of fraud in a court case appearing before the Los Angeles Superior Court. According to Associated Press,Tellez vs. Dole thrown out, having produced anonymous whistleblower witnesses who allege that lawyers from Nicaragua and Los Angeles recruited plaintiffs to lie about having worked for Dole on a banana plantation in the ’70s and ’80s and about their sterility. The judge who presided over the original case in 2007 dismissed two similar cases in 2009 after Dole claimed that the plaintiffs were paid by their attorneys, and that only one of the 11 had ever worked on a banana plantation. Dole is seeking to have the 2007 verdict from the
The issue at hand is Dole’s use of the highly toxic pesticide dibromochloropropane (DBCP), commercial name Nemagon. In 1977, EPA banned DBCP on all fruit besides pineapples when it became clear that DBCP was directly linked to male sterility. But Dole continued to use it through 1980 in Nicaragua, exposing tens of thousands of workers there and in other Central American countries. In a 2007 case against Dole, the jury awarded 6 of the 12 plaintiffs $3.2 million in compensatory damages and later added $2.5 million in punitive damages. But in 2008 those punitive damages were reduced to $1.58 for four workers on the reasoning that Dole used, but didn’t market, the pesticide. Lawyer Steve Condie, who now represents the 6 plaintiffs who stand to lose their compensation if the verdict is thrown out, said last week, “There is no question that there were fraudulent plaintiffs, but my clients are all legitimate. They were sterilized.” He argued in court that Dole had bribed its whistleblower witnesses, and that the sterility tests had not been faked as Dole claimed, but rather, that some of them men had partially recovered from the damage caused by DBCP. Condie also pointed to one witness who was brought to court but never testified, because Dole refused his demand for $500,000 at the last minute. Outside of court, a Dole attorney admitted that Dole relocated witnesses to Costa Rica and provided housing, jobs, and a stipend. The Nicaragua Network reports that several such whistleblower witnesses have recanted their claims of fraud and revealed that Dole bribed them to testify.