A California appeals court has upheld a judge’s ruling dismissing a $2.3 million jury verdict against Dole Food Co. in a suit claiming exposure to a pesticide used in the 1970s on Nicaraguan banana farms caused sterility in workers.
The 2007 jury award in Tellez v. Dole Food was tossed out in 2011 by judge Victoria Chaney, then with the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Chaney, who had presided over the 2007 trial, found plaintiffs and their counsel committed fraud by:
- recruiting people who hadn’t worked on banana farms;
- coaching plaintiffs to lie about their work and submit false work certificates;
- falsifying sterility with fraudulent lab reports;
- concealing children fathered by plaintiffs; and
- interfering with witnesses and investigators.
The Tellez suit was originally one of three related cases. It alleged workers at Dole-contracted banana farms in Nicaragua were harmed by exposure to the pesticide dibromochloropropane from 1970 to 1980. The Dow Chemical Co. was also a defendant.
In their March 7 ruling, three judges on the Los Angeles appellate court saw no reason to reconsider the merits of the suit.
“The trial court found that each of the Tellez plaintiffs was involved in the fraud, and there is substantial evidence in the record to support those findings,” they wrote.
They also rejected claims that Chaney showed bias.
“Plaintiffs’ brief is peppered with invective and disparaging remarks directed at the trial court in an apparent effort to persuade this court to set aside the judgment on the ground of judicial bias,” they concluded. “Plaintiffs failed to raise any objection premised on judicial bias.”