Dole Settles Nicaragua Lawsuits


Dole Food Co. has announced a definitive agreement to settle 38 lawsuits from farm workers who alleged injury from exposure to the pesticide DBCP.

The agreement covers five lawsuits in the United States and 33 in Nicaragua, where the exposure allegedly occurred more than 30 years ago.

Banana plantation workers have claimed that they were made sterile by exposure to the pesticide, which Dole continued to use even though it was banned in the United States. However, many of the plantation workers’ lawsuits were dismissed when the judge in the case concluded that many sterility tests were faked and some Nicaraguan plaintiffs had been recruited and had never even worked on a banana plantation. Nonetheless, other lawsuits continued.

Dole did not reveal how much it would pay to settle; the plaintiffs allege a collective $9 billion in damages. Dole will not make any payments until it receives a signed release from each plaintiff, dismissals of cases and judgments, and a determination by the Los Angeles Superior Court that any settlement is fair to all parties. The company expects to have the matter settled by the end of this year.

Dole, based in Westlake Village, doesn’t expect the settlement will have a material effect on the company’s financial condition.

Michael Carter, Dole’s general counsel, said in a statement that the agreement “furthers Dole’s plan to find possible business-based solutions for all DBCP claims, even though there is no reliable scientific basis for alleged injuries from the agricultural field application of DBCP.”

By mid-day Tuesday, shares of Dole traded up 37 cents, or 4 percent, at $9.74 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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