July 16, 2010

Dole Judgment Vacated Due to Fraud

Times are tough for the lawyers representing a group of Nicaraguan banana workers who claimed they were harmed by pesticides that Dole used in the 1970's. Law.com is reporting that a Los Angeles judge has dismissed the last remnants of a verdict in which a jury awarded those workers over $5 million in damages, including $2.5 million in punitive damages.

In November 2007, the jury in Tellez v. Dole awarded $3.2 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages. The punitive damages award was vacated during posttrial proceedings, but Dole appealed the remaining portion of the award. Dole argued that the case should be thrown out in light of evidence that plaintiffs' counsel falsified medical records and work certificates and intimidated Dole's investigators in Nicaragua. The Court of Appeal refused to vacate the judgment, but ruled that a prima facie case of fraud existed and returned the case to the trial court for further proceedings. Court of Appeal Justice Victoria Chaney, who presided over the trial court proceedings on remand because she had been involved in the case before she was elevated to the Court of Appeal, found evidence of fraud, and vacated the entire verdict.

In related news, the Ninth Circuit recently sanctioned prominent plaintiffs' attorneys Walter Lack and Tommy Girardi for their own fraudulent attempts to enforce a Nicaraguan judgment that was based on the same allegations.

The plaintiffs' lawyers came very close to collecting millions of dollars from these cases, but they ultimately ended up with nothing.