A Superior Court jury tacked on $2.5 million in punitive damages for the company’s failure to warn five Nicaraguan banana plantation workers about their exposure to a pesticide that left them sterile. That's in addition to $3.2 million in compensatory damages Dole was ordered last week to pay six workers. Even if Westlake Village-based Dole loses on appeal, the $5.7 million will hardly break its bank (the $2.5 million punitive award was a lot lower than it could have been). And yet, you have to wonder whether Dole CEO David Murdock might have avoided the whole nasty experience by just cutting a check out of court. I mean, the allegations go back 30 years, and there's not much question about the company's culpability. Did Murdock just want to prove a point or was he worried about having to cut checks to all the other Central American workers who have cases pending in U.S. courts? From the LAT:
The case was widely seen as a test of how well the U.S. legal system could respond to injuries inflicted in a globalized economy. Because the harm occurred in Central America, the defendants had argued for years that the trials should take place there, rather than in the United States. Both sides considered the case a bellwether that would determine what sorts of claims would be pursued in the future.