A Los Angeles judge on July 15 threw out a $1.58 million judgment against Dole Food Co., saying the Nicaraguan plaintiffs who claimed to have been made sterile by pesticides used on a company farm engaged in blatant fraud.

Los Angeles Superior Court Justice Victoria Chaney, in her ruling dismissing the lawsuit, cited a coordinated effort to bring fraudulent claims by plaintiffs’ attorneys, according to a statement yesterday from Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole.

Pesticide lawsuit judgment against Dole thrown out

A Los Angeles attorney, Juan Dominguez, “was and is actively involved in activating and perpetuating this fraud and scheme,” Chaney wrote.

Chaney’s dismissal of the lawsuit, Tellez vs. Dole, follows a 2007 a jury award to six workers who claimed they were made sterile by pesticides at a Dole banana plantation.

The lawsuit alleged that pesticide exposure on a Dole-contracted plantation in Nicaragua in the 1970s made thousands of workers sterile. But Chaney said “it is not reasonable” to conclude 14,000 claimants were made sterile.

“Some or all of the claimants have brought fraudulent claims,” Chaney said, according to the Dole statement.

Plaintiffs and their representatives engaged in “blatant fraud, witness tampering, and active manipulation,” Chaney said.

The Tellez case was the final remaining lawsuit against Dole brought by Nicaraguan plaintiffs claiming exposure to the pesticide dibromochloropropane.

In October, a U.S. district court judge in Florida threw out a $97 million judgment against Dole and Dow Chemical Co., saying it was “factually impossible” for what was represented in the judgment to have happened.

In June 2009, Chaney dismissed two lawsuits against Dole, ruling that the plaintiffs and their attorneys had engaged in a long-running conspiracy to commit fraud, even using threats of violence against Dole witnesses to suppress the truth.

Dismissal of the lawsuit “finally brings closure to these fraudulent Nicaraguan claims,” C. Michael Carter, Dole's executive vice president and general counsel, said in the company’s statement.

The claims “all lacked any semblance of credibility,” Carter said, and “never should have been brought in the first place.”