(AFP) – Nov 5, 2007
LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Six workers left infertile after exposure to a pesticide used in Nicaraguan banana plantations were awarded more than three million dollars damages by a Los Angeles jury on Monday.
Jurors at Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that food giants Dole and the Dow Chemical Co were jointly liable for the physical damage suffered by workers who harvested bananas in Nicaragua during the 1970s and 1980s.
The Dow-manufactured pesticide was used by Dole to kill microscopic worms in banana tree roots. The case was the first involving the chemical, commonly known as DBCP, to be tried in the United States.
The jury assigned financial liability to Dole for all six plaintiffs, saying the company was 80 percent responsible for what happened to five of the men and 60 percent for the sixth. Six other workers named in the lawsuit saw their claims against Dole and Dow dismissed.
The jury will sit again on Tuesday to determine whether the six men should also be awarded punitive damages.
A lawyer for the victims expressed satisfaction at the ruling. "We are gratified the jury ... paid very careful attention to the evidence," attorney Duane Miller said.
During the court case, jurors heard that in the late 1970s Dow stopped making the pesticide available in the United States because of the sterility concerns.
However, Dole officials told Dow representatives they would be considered in breach of contract if they did not supply the worm-killer for Dole's international operations, according to the testimony.
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