"The unraveling of multimillion-dollar Los Angeles cases alleging that Nicaraguan men had been sterilized by pesticide exposure is now threatening to upend hundreds of other claims in U.S. courts, as judges examine charges that plaintiffs' lawyers orchestrated an extraordinary international fraud.
At the center of the claims is the pesticide DBCP and allegations that workers in banana plantations in Central America and Africa were harmed by exposure to the chemical.
In November 2007, a Los Angeles jury awarded $5.7 million to six Nicaraguan men who sued Dole Food Co. and chemical companies, alleging they had been made sterile by DBCP on Dole's plantations. The amount was later reduced by a judge and is now on appeal. The case will probably be thrown out entirely in the wake of a judge's findings of fraud in two related cases.
Those cases against Dole, Dow Chemical Co. and AMVAC Chemical Corp. were set to go to trial this year. Then, in April, Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney dismissed the claims, ruling that U.S. lawyers and their Nicaraguan partners had concocted the cases through an audacious fraud, recruiting plaintiffs who had never worked on banana plantations, training them to lie on the witness stand and then waging a campaign of intimidation to prevent the scheme from being uncovered.
Chaney's ruling could now affect hundreds of similar claims by plaintiffs from Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Ivory Coast that are pending in U.S. courts, legal experts said."
Victoria Kim and Alan Zarembo report for the Los Angeles Tmes July 12, 2009.