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Judge: banana-pesticide suits were "a pervasive conspiracy to defraud"

Lawyers organized suits against Dole, Dow Chemical and other defendants on charges that pesticides on banana plantations had caused sterility -- but many of the clients had never worked on plantations and were not in fact sterile. According to Judge Victoria Chaney (transcript, PDF, courtesy American Lawyer), attorneys were the brains of what Ben Hallman of American Lawyer calls "the most egregious plaintiffs lawyer extortion and fraud allegations we've seen this side of criminal indictment":

After several days of testimony on defense allegations of Dominguez's misconduct [Los Angeles plaintiff's lawyer Juan Dominguez], Chaney tossed the tort cases before her. "I find that there is and was a pervasive conspiracy to defraud American and Nicaraguan courts, to defraud the defendants, to extort money from not just these defendants -- but all manufacturers of DBCP and all growers or operators of plantations in Nicaragua between 1970 and 1980," she said from the bench. Her ruling puts in doubt $2 billion in pending judgments Dominguez won in dozens of similar suits. Chaney also said she would refer the matter to state bar associations and to prosecutorial agencies. ...

The court testimony that led to Chaney's ruling detailed how a group of Nicaraguan lawyers, in apparent collusion with local officials, judges and lab technicians, rounded up 10,000 men whom they coached to claim sterility -- and to blame that sterility on Dole's chemicals.

When Dole attempted to investigate the claims, its representatives were harassed and some plaintiff's lawyers even put out a bounty seeking the identity of witnesses. Chaney said that she did not suspect a Sacramento law firm that also represented the plaintiffs of being involved with the fraud. [cross-posted, and slightly adapted for clarity, from Overlawyered; earlier coverage there.]

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.