San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Dole begins payments to Central American banana workers

U.S. fruit giant Dole Food Company, Inc. this week began paying a settlement to some 5,000 former Central American banana workers who sued the company for exposing them to the harmful pesticides Nemagon and Fumazone while they worked for the company.

The agreement terminates 38 lawsuits filed in the United States and Nicaragua alleging pesticide-related injuries, the company said.

The complaints concerned pesticides sprayed on crops to control worms for over two decades, before they were banned in 1977 following reports of infertility among male workers exposed to them.

The terminated lawsuits included two Nicaraguan judgments totaling $907.5 million.

The agreement was reached with Provost Umphrey law firm, which had represented the foreign plaintiffs, Dole said, without providing further information about the possible value of the settlement.

“The termination of these 38 lawsuits takes Dole completely out of all Provost Umphrey DBCP litigation … and moves Dole closer to the eventual elimination of all DBCP lawsuits,” Dole’s Executive Vice President C. Michael Carter said in a statement last week.

“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.”

The company had refused to pay until lawsuits against it had been dismissed and each of the plaintiffs had signed a release agreeing not to sue Dole again for injuries linked to the chemicals.

The settlement covers 3,157 Nicaraguans, 780 Costa Ricans and 1,000 Hondurans who worked for Dole during the period from 1973 to 1980 when the company used the pesticides.

Many of the workers spent 16 years struggling to win a settlement.

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