WESTLAKE VILLAGE, California – June 18, 2009 – On Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria G. Chaney issued written Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, formally ordering dismissal with prejudice of the two remaining lawsuits against Dole Food Company, Inc. and two other companies, brought on behalf of Nicaraguan plaintiffs who had falsely claimed they were sterile as a result of exposure to the pesticide DBCP on Dole-contracted Nicaraguan banana farms three decades ago.
“No sanction other than dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice would cure the harm here because the misconduct has been so widespread and pervasive such that this Court now questions the veracity of DBCP Plaintiffs coming from Nicaragua,” declared Judge Chaney.
The Court’s Findings formalize the April 23 oral ruling and dismissal with prejudice of Mejia, et al. v. Dole Food Company, Inc., et al. and Rivera, et al. v. Dole Food Company, Inc., et al., and documents “clear and convincing evidence” that the plaintiffs, and certain of their attorneys, fabricated their claims, engaged in a long-running conspiracy to commit a fraud on the court, used threats of violence to frighten witnesses and suppress the truth, and conspired with corrupt Nicaraguan judges to use a targeted Nicaragua statute to deprive Dole and the other companies of due process. In addition, the Court found that Tellez, et al. v. Dole Food Company, Inc., et al. was also “built on somebody’s imagination, a case that was put together by smoke and mirrors.” In her April 23 oral ruling, Judge Chaney said “[h]ad the Court had the benefit of the evidence of fraud it now has when it still had jurisdiction over the Tellez case, it would have terminated that litigation as it has in the Mejia and Rivera cases.”
According to the Findings, “[t]he evidence of fraud and obstruction of justice by Plaintiffs and their counsel in this case and in other DBCP cases in and emanating from Nicaragua threatens the integrity of this Court and the integrity of other courts in which such cases are pending or are brought in the future.”
The Findings go on to state that “the Court was presented with detailed, undisputed testimony” that Mejia and Rivera plaintiffs’ counsel Los Angeles-based trial attorney Juan J. Dominguez and Nicaraguan counsel Hernandez Ordeñana and Barnard Zavala “conspired and colluded with other DBCP plaintiffs’ lawyers … Nicaraguan laboratories and corrupt Nicaraguan judges in positions to influence the outcome of DBCP cases. The purpose of this conspiracy was to manufacture evidence and improperly influence the outcome of DBCP cases pending in Nicaragua and the United States to obtain millions of dollars in judgments that would then be enforced in the U.S. and possibly elsewhere.” “Any attempt to enforce a Nicaragua judgment would require a court to accept that it was fraudulently obtained in a judicial environment that denied Dole and the other companies due process under unconstitutional Nicaragua Law 364,” said C. Michael Carter, Dole’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel.
Judge Chaney found that Mr. Dominguez, Mr. Ordeñana and other lawyers conspired to (a) recruit fraudulent plaintiffs, (b) use scripts, videos and brochures to educate pretend plaintiffs about life and work on banana farms — teaching them to lie about work on banana farms that they never did, (c) conduct “field trips” to see the physical layout of the farms, (d) falsify employment documents, (e) falsify medical reports related to sterility testing, (f) suppress evidence of children born to plaintiffs claiming sterility, (g) make payments to persons in exchange for falsified documents, (h) conduct meetings with a Nicaraguan judge to manufacture evidence, to “fix” the outcomes of court cases in Nicaragua, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments, (i) threaten violence against witnesses and their families and investigators, and (j) air radio broadcasts telling listeners not to cooperate with investigators.
The Judge had previously found “that there is and was a conspiracy to defraud both Nicaraguan and American courts, to defraud the defendants, to extort money from these defendants, not just these three defendants in the court here but all manufacturers of DBCP, and all growers or … operators of plantations … in Nicaragua between 1970 and 1980.”
“The Court’s Findings exposed an industry existing in Nicaragua involving unscrupulous lawyers, judicial corruption, and denial of due process through a targeted statute, Law 364,” said Michael Carter. “This industry has served as a vehicle for exporting judgments procured through fraud and corruption to U.S. courts.”
Along with the “pervasive nature of the fraud that permeates the DBCP cases from Nicaragua,” Judge Chaney noted the “onerous requirements” of Nicaragua Law 364, a law adopted in Nicaragua in 2000 specifically to target U.S. companies that manufactured or used DBCP in that country and denies them due process through, among other things, an irrefutable presumption of causation. “The advent of Special Law 364 was a significant impetus in establishing an industry that developed around DBCP litigation in Nicaragua for the purpose of bringing fraudulent claims,” Judge Chaney noted.
“In truth, there is simply no science to support the allegation that DBCP caused sterility to Nicaraguan banana workers,” said Michael Carter.
Dole is the world’s largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and is the leading producer of organic bananas. Dole markets a growing line of packaged and frozen foods and is a produce industry leader in nutrition education and research.
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- Dole Announces Settlement of 16 Lawsuits of Banana Workers Claiming Injuries as a Result of Exposure to DBCP
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