April 20, 2009

Dole Accuses Attorneys of Fraud In Banana Litigation

The Associated Press (via the Sacramento Bee) is reporting on hearings that took place today in an ongoing punitive damages case in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs claim they became sterile when they were exposed to pesticide on a Nicaraguan banana farm. The defendant, Dole Fresh Fruit Co., is accusing the plaintiffs' attorneys of recruiting clients to make false claims.

As we noted in a prior post, some of the plaintiffs in this litigation won a $2.5 million punitive damages award back in 2007, but the victory was short-lived. Judge Victoria Chaney of the Los Angeles Superior Court vacated the punitive damages award, ruling that Dole couldn't be punished for injuries that incurred in a foreign country. Last month Judge Chaney threatened to dismiss other similar cases.

Now things have gotten even worse, with Judge Chaney holding hearings to determine whether the two attorneys for the plaintiffs knowingly brought false claims. According to the AP Story, Dole alleges that the two attorneys paid witnesses and cajoled plaintiffs into saying they had worked on banana plantations and been rendered sterile. Dole says the attorneys showed videos to the men depicting life on the plantations to help them tell their stories, falsified sterility documents, and hid evidence that some of the men went on to sire children.

UPDATE: Cal. Biz Lit blogs about this story here.