A California court has issued a statement of decision in support of its July 2010 oral ruling vacating a judgment in favor of plaintiffs who alleged they had been rendered sterile from chemicals used on Nicaraguan banana plantations. Tellez v. Dole Food Co., Inc., No. BC 312852 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles County, statement filed March 11, 2011). According to the court, the plaintiffs’ attorneys “coached their clients to lie about working on banana farms, forged work certificates to create the appearance that their clients had worked on Dole-contracted farms, and faked lab results to create the impression that their clients were sterile.” The court also stated that the attorneys “tampered with witnesses,” “threatened witnesses and took other actions to carry out the fraud.”
The court held more than 20 hearings, presiding over a year-long evidentiary process, and “reviewed the sworn testimony of 27 protected witnesses describing the fraud at work in these cases, heard plaintiff’s fact witnesses and experts, and reviewed the more than 400 exhibits submitted by the parties.” Rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims that Dole’s “John Doe” testimony about fraud was not credible and that Dole bribed witnesses and was not diligent in bring forward evidence of fraud, the court found that the “fraud permeates every aspect of the case and continues unchecked” and concluded that “retrial is not an option.” Because of the costs to the court system and the jurors’ employers, as well as a “reliably predictive” history and ongoing nature of counsel’s misconduct, the court dismissed the case with prejudice.