Screenwriters take note. You might recall a widely followed case involving Nicaraguans who claimed that Dole exposed them to a pesticide, DBCP, which allegedly causes sterility. The allegations, which Dole denied, went back to the 1970s. Now, Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney has thrown out a jury award and ruled that Nicaraguan attorneys and an L.A. plaintiffs lawyer recruited fraudulent plaintiffs, allegedly coaxing them to fabricate their work histories. "What occurred here is not just fraud on the court but blatant extortion of defendants," she ruled. From AP:
The judge denounced the lawyers who hatched the scheme and said there was a group of corrupt Nicaraguan judges "devouring bribes" to make judgments and aid the scheme. The lawsuits ended up in the California court seeking enforcement of extravagant damages determined by Nicaraguan judges.
"This court questions the authenticity and reliability of any documents that come from Nicaragua," she said. "I can't believe in lab reports, work certificates, medical reports -- what is there for me to believe? Nothing." In 2007, Dole lost a Nicaraguan banana workers suit with the same claim in a trial before Chaney. There was an initial multimillion-dollar jury verdict that was later reduced to $1.58 million and is now on appeal. In her ruling, the judge apologized to the jury in that case and said she thought there was "something wrong with the witnesses" but was unable to pinpoint it because claims of fraud had not yet been raised when that case was tried.
A Dole investigator, Francisco Valadez, said he has received numerous threats.
Valadez's supervisor, Luis Madrigal of Costa Rica, testified he was forced to do investigative interviews in the dead of night to obtain information. He said he too has lived in fear and fliers distributed in Nicaragua showed his picture with instructions for anyone who saw him to beat or kill him.