Nicaraguan Field Workers Win $300K in Sterility Suit

A Southern California chemical company has agreed to pay $300,000 to Nicaraguan field workers who filed a lawsuit alleging one of the firm's pesticides caused them to become sterile.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs announced the settlement with Amvac Chemical Corp. during a rally Sunday in Chinandega, Nicaragua, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The agreement, which Amvac filed late last month, still requires final approval by a Los Angeles judge. In court papers, the Newport Beach-based company said the settlement was a "compromise of disputed claims" and denied any wrongdoing. An Amvac spokesman could not immediately be reached by the newspaper Sunday.

"This is the point of the spear," said Juan Dominguez, the Los Angeles lawyer who filed the suit, which also names Dow Chemical Co. and Dole Fruit Co. as defendants. The remaining case was scheduled for trial next month.

Under the settlement with Amvac, thirteen workers will get payments ranging from $2,000 to $60,000, depending on when they worked and their injuries. The workers contend they were sterilized while exposed to a pesticide called DBCP on banana plantations nearly three decades ago, according to the suit.

Each of the companies has denied any workers were harmed by the pesticide, which was manufactured by Dow and Amvac and used by Dole on plantations in Latin America. The chemical is no longer made or used.

"We have been fighting this fight for so long," said Carlos Miguel Blanco, 48, a plantiff. Blanco alleges he was rendered infertile while working on a banana plantation in the 1970s.

"We want to finish this, not just for me," he said, "but for everyone who was affected."

Tens of thousands of banana workers worldwide have sued over the use of DBCP, which has been shown to cause sterility and brain and kidney damage in tests of lab animals. No lawsuit has ever gone to trial in the United States.

In 1997, Dow, Shell Group and Occidental Chemical Corp. settled one suit with 26,000 workers in Latin America and elsewhere for $41 million. Both men and women say they were injured by the chemical, but sterility has been proven only in males.