Dole sues filmmaker

The fresh fruit producer alleges in a Superior Court filing that it was defamed in Fredrik Gertten's documentary "Bananas." It's yet one more layer on an already convoluted case that centers on L.A. lawyer Juan Dominguez and his allegations that Dole had mistreated its Nicaraguan banana plantation workers. A jury awarded the workers, but then evidence was presented that showed the allegations by Dominguez had been rigged (turns out that most of the plaintiffs never worked on Dole-affiliated banana farms). Here's more backstory. Anyway, Gertten went ahead with his film that apparently sided heavily with Dominguez - despite Westlake Village-based Dole trying to present its side. Not helping any was a screening of the documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival. From the filing:

Dole repeatedly brought this fraud - and much, much more - to defendants' attention before defendants released the film. Sensitive to free speech and artistic expression concerns, Dole implored defendants not to screen the film without making substantial changes to take account of the court's ruling and detailed findings. But defendants ignored the truth and screened this blatantly false film. As the film's director, Fredrik Gertten explained, defendants had adopted their "point of view" at the outset of their enterprise and thought there was nothing they needed to learn from Dole. And just as defendants never contacted Dole prior to "completing" their film, they likewise refused to consider the court's ruling of fraud prior to releasing it. There can be no clearer case of defamation or actual malice.

A Superior Court judge has recommended that prosecutors and the State Bar investigate Dominguez. His lawyer claims that the judge prejudged his client's guilt. Today's suit asks for general and punitive damages.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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