California Judge Dismisses Lawsuits Against Food Giant Dole

A California judge on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits by purported Nicaraguan banana plantation workers against U.S. food giant Dole and other companies on grounds of fraud and attempted extortion.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney ruled after hearing three days of testimony that detailed a scheme to recruit men who would claim they were rendered sterile by exposure to a pesticide in the 1970s.

The judge denounced the lawyers who hatched the scheme and said there was a group of corrupt Nicaraguan judges "devouring bribes" to make judgments and aid the scheme.

The lawsuits ended up in the California court seeking enforcement of extravagant damages determined by Nicaraguan judges.

"What has occurred here is not just a fraud on the court, it is blatant extortion on the defendant," Chaney said. "... The record is so outrageous and profound."

She noted she had heard evidence of attorneys suborning perjury, doctoring medical reports and training recruits plucked from an impoverished nation to make false claims in hope of reaping billions of dollars.

All of it, she said, was facilitated by a government which passed a special law to penalize foreign companies.

"There is a lack of respect for law down there," she said.

She noted that among those who testified were men who denied their own children.

"How sick," she added.