LOS ANGELES – A judge on Thursday dismissed a $2.3 million judgment against Dole Food Co. in a lawsuit by purported Nicaraguan banana workers, ruling that the company and the court were victims of a massive fraud.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney said that because of actions by plaintiffs in Nicaragua, it may never be possible for anyone to know the truth of the case.
“The plaintiffs have unabashedly tampered with witnesses,” she said, noting that they had threatened investigators who tried to get information in Nicaragua.
A jury in 2007 awarded the money to six workers who claimed exposure to pesticides at Dole plantations made them sterile.
In Thursday’s ruling, Chaney found that Los Angeles lawyer Juan J. Dominguez orchestrated a fraud in which he recruited people to say they had been banana workers when they had not. Chaney also found that a series of “John Doe” witnesses who blew the whistle on the fraud were generally credible.
The judge dismissed a companion case last year for similar reasons. Testimony in that case showed plaintiffs pretended to have been workers on Dole banana farms in the 1970s and faked lab tests to show they became sterile.