March 10, 2008

Trial Court Dismisses Punitive Damages Award Against Dole in Case Involving Nicaraguan Farm Workers

Dole Food Company announced today that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney has dismissed the $2.5 million in punitive damages that a jury awarded against Dole last November.

In Tellez v. Dole, a group of Nicaraguan farm works claimed that Dole acted with malice against them in the use of the agricultural chemical DBCP on contracted banana farms in Nicaragua nearly 30 years ago. The punitive damages claim raised some interesting constitutional issues, since the plaintiffs were foreign nationals seeking punitive damages under California law for acts that occurred in a foreign country. Dole complained that the punitive damages ran afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in BMW v. Gore that punitive damages cannot be based on acts that were lawful where they occurred. Apparently, Judge Chaney agreed.