Fruits producer Dole Food Co. Inc. (DOLE) Monday said the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida has rejected the enforcement of a $97 million Nicaragua judgment against Dole and another U.S. company.
Judge Paul Huck indicated that the Nicaraguan trial court did not have jurisdiction over the defendant companies. The judgment did not arise out of proceedings that comported with the international concept of due process, rather the judgment was rendered under a system, which does not provide impartial tribunal or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law.
The cause of action or claim for relief on which the judgment is based is repugnant to the public policy of Florida, the Judge said.
The Nicaraguan judgment involved 150 Nicaraguan citizens alleged to have worked in banana plantations in Nicaragua between 1970 and 1982, during which time they were exposed to the chemical compound dibromochloropropane or DBCP.
DBCP is an agricultural pesticide that was banned in the United States after it was linked to sterility in factory workers in 1977. DBCP is banned in Nicaragua since 1993.
Plaintiffs sued Dole Food and Dow Chemical Co. on account of personal injuries from the use of DBCP. The court awarded $97 million to the plaintiffs.
Judge Huck noted that "the credible and unrefuted medical testimony in this case is that it is factually impossible for what is represented in the Judgment to have occurred," and that due process "do[es] not permit awarding damages in the face of clear scientific evidence of the absence of causation," or, as in this case, "with proof that [the defendants] are not at fault."
Michael Carter, Dole's executive vice president and general counsel, said, "The Court's ruling indicates that corruption and a total lack of due process is the norm for the Nicaragua judicial system."
Dole is a producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and is the leading producer of organic bananas. The company went public last week.
DOLE is currently trading at $12.08, down 20 cents or 1.63%.
by RTT Staff Writer
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