Fruit company Dole challenges verdict, alleges conspiracy

Fruit company Dole is challenging a 2-and-a-half million dollar jury award to Nicaraguan banana plantation workers in a Los Angeles court. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says the company is claiming the workers’ initial lawsuit is based on a fraudulent conspiracy.

Fruit company Dole is challenging a 2-and-a-half million dollar jury award to Nicaraguan banana plantation workers in a Los Angeles court. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says the company is claiming the workers’ initial lawsuit is based on a fraudulent conspiracy.

Cheryl Devall: In three days of closed-door hearings attorneys for Dole hope to prove to an L.A. Superior Court judge that a jury fell for a sham a year-and-a-half ago. The award to five workers followed a prolonged trial in which lawyers tried to prove a pesticide the men used on banana plants had made them sterile.

The court later threw out the damages, saying it could not use the award to punish Westlake Village-based Dole for injuries that had occurred in a foreign country. Now, Dole attorneys claim that lawyers sought out poor Nicaraguans, persuaded them to pose as banana workers, and coached them on the details about the industry – all to wring money out of the corporation.

The alleged decade-long conspiracy, Dole attorneys say, required the men to hide their children from investigators. The company says the men who’ve agreed to testify in these hearings are doing so in fear of mob reprisal back in Nicaragua. That’s why the hearings are closed.

Note: The hearings are scheduled to continue through Thursday.

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