Settlement terminates 38 DBCP cases against Dole

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Settlement terminates 38 DBCP cases against Dole

Dole Food Company has completed an agreement with more than 5,000 plaintiffs from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras who were previously claiming damages against the company over the effects of agricultural chemical DBCP.

The agreement puts an end to 38 lawsuits against it that have been pending in the United States and Nicaragua; judgments in the latter had totaled US$901 million but were stuck in the Nicaraguan Court of Appeals for many years.

Provost Umphrey Law Firm attorney Mark Sparks told the definitive settlement was reached with Dole around one year ago.

"Of course, because there were over 5,000 signatures we needed to get, there was a logistical delay in obtaining those signatures," he said.

"Subsequent to reaching the adequate amount of signatures, the next step as a condition precedent to being paid was getting the cases dismissed against Dole.

"In Nicaragua this presented a larger problem because there were 24 separate actions in several courts, including the Managuan District Courts, the Chinandega District Courts, the Leon Court of Appeal, and the Nicaraguan Supreme Court."

He said the final orders came last week from the fourth and fifth district courts of Managua.

"After that funding was achieved through Dole’s cooperation and professionalism, rather quickly, once we got the final Nicaraguan court to rule," he says.

While unable to reveal the value of the settlement, Sparks says it was achieved with 95% of agreement from the 5,400 clients in the total pool.

"I feel it’s a fair agreement just as the Los Angeles court found in good faith that it is a fair agreement. It is a partial settlement and we will pursue the remaining defendants with vigor, as we did Dole."

Dole will no longer be litigated against in these cases, but Provost Umphrey will continue the case against co-defendants Shell, Dow, Occidental, Del Monte and Chiquita, arguing that these companies' use of DBCP led to the sterility of the firm's clients.

"There is an argument against linking certain damages to DBCP; there is really little argument disputing that DBCP causes sterility, that is the strongest claim."

Dole executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary C. Michael Carter, said the termination of the cases moves Dole closer to the eventual elimination of all DBCP lawsuits.

"Though there is no reliable scientific basis for alleged injuries from the agricultural field application of DBCP, Dole has been willing to consider possible agreements which recognize that there is no causal connection between DBCP and plaintiffs’ allegations," added said in a release.

The release claimed the agreement would not have a material effect on Dole's financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.

Dole did not respond to requests for comment.

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