DOLE FOOD COMPANY, INC. WINS COURT RULINGS
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, California - March 10, 2008
Dole Food Company, Inc. today announced that Judge Victoria Gerrard Chaney of the Los Angeles Superior Court found for Dole in the Tellez case by dismissing all punitive damages and finding that "any punitive damages award would be so arbitrary as to be grossly excessive, and thus violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment" of the United States Constitution. Judge Chaney further held that "viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the evidence compels a verdict for [Dole] as a matter of law." The plaintiffs had alleged that Dole acted with malice against workers in the use of Dow Chemical's agricultural chemical DBCP on contracted banana farms in Nicaragua nearly 30 years ago.
As a result of this and the court's other favorable rulings on March 7, 2008, the original verdicts which totaled $5 million against Dole have now been reduced to $1.58 million.
"We always have maintained that punitive damages are inappropriate in these cases and would violate fundamental constitutional principles," said C. Michael Carter, Dole's executive vice president and general counsel. "The rationale of Judge Chaney's ruling clearly appears to preclude the award of punitive damages against Dole in any of the other cases pending in California, regardless of whether the plaintiffs are from Nicaragua or any other foreign country."
As a result of these proceedings, the court found in Dole's favor against seven of the 12 hand-picked plaintiffs in the Tellez case; and the court granted Dole's motion for a new trial as to the claims of one of the other plaintiffs. Only the compensatory verdicts for four plaintiffs remain, subject to Dole's appeal.
Dole is committed to a fair and reasonable resolution of claims by male banana workers in Nicaragua, who meet minimum criteria consistent with the reliable science. In Honduras, Dole, worker unions and the Government of Honduras have implemented a successful program to deal with these claims.