Federal judge throws out Nicaraguan judgment against Dole

10/27/2009 12:13:42 PM
Don Schrack

Citing judicial corruption and a discriminatory law, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida has denied recognition and enforcement of a $97 million judgment by a Nicaraguan court against Dole Food Co. Inc., Los Angeles and Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich.

The ruling continues the trend of U.S. courts finding fault with verdicts and judgments of Nicaraguan courts against Dole.

“The Court’s ruling indicates that corruption and a total lack of due process is the norm for the Nicaragua judicial system,” C. Michael Carter, Dole’s executive vice president and general counsel, said in a news release. “The laws and procedures on which this judgment has been awarded in Nicaragua are absolutely contrary to the international concepts of fairness and due process.”

The ruling stems from claims by Nicaraguan workers that a pesticide used on Dole-contracted banana farms three decades ago made them sterile.

In his ruling, Judge Paul Huck found “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,” the release said.

Huck also ruled that the Nicaraguan court applied a law that “unfairly discriminates against a handful of foreign defendants with extraordinary procedures and presumptions found nowhere else in Nicaraguan law.”

In June, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney dismissed with prejudice two lawsuits against Dole. She also ruled a third plaintiff’s claims were fraudulent.

In his ruling, Judge Huck said the award for the plaintiffs was “rendered under a system in which political strongmen exert their control over a weak and corrupt judiciary, such that Nicaragua does not possess a system of jurisprudence likely to secure an impartial administration of justice,” according to the release.

Huck’s ruling could eventually affect judgments in more than 30 lawsuits filed in Nicaragua since 2002. Those judgments total more than $2 billion against Dole and Dow.



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