(March 11, 10:08 a.m.) A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has dismissed punitive damages in a civil case against Dole Food Co. Inc.

A jury in November had awarded a total of $2.5 million in compensatory damages to six workers who had alleged that they were exposed to harmful chemicals while working at Nicaragua banana farms in the 1970s. The jury also awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages for five of the workers.

Marty Ordman, vice president of marketing and corporate communications for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole, said Judge Victoria Gerrard Chaney had dismissed the punitive damages. Furthermore, cases for two of the workers — who had been awarded a total of $955,000 in compensatory damages — have been thrown out. Ordman said one of those cases might be retried.

That leaves Dole facing $1.58 million in compensatory damages for chemical exposure, which the workers alleged caused sterility. Those verdicts are subject to appeal, Ordman said.

C. Michael Carter, Dole’s executive vice president and general counsel said in a news release that the ruling sets a precedent that should preclude the award of punitive damages against Dole in any of other cases pending in California.

Ordman said he was uncertain how many similar cases are pending against Dole in the state. However, in the Form 10-Q Dole filed in October with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated there were 491 lawsuits “alleging injury as a result of exposure to DBCP, seeking enforcement of Nicaraguan judgments or seeking to bar Dole’s efforts to resolve DBCP claims in Nicaragua.”

Claimed damages worldwide total $41.9 billion, according to the filing. Twenty of the cases were filed in the U.S.