A Los Angeles Court has dismissed two lawsuits brought against Dole Food Co. by Nicaraguan citizens claiming they had been left sterile by exposure to pesticide at the company’s banana farms.

A superior court judge yesterday (23 April) dismissed the two cases (Mejia, et al. v. Dole Food Company, et al. and Rivera, et al. v. Dole Food Company, et al) after it was found the plaintiffs and “certain of their attorneys”, had “fabricated their claims”.

The plaintiffs had also engaged in a “long-running conspiracy to commit a fraud on the court, used threats of violence to frighten witnesses and suppress the truth, and conspired with corrupt Nicaraguan judges, depriving Dole and the other companies of due process”, the court said.

“What occurred here is not just fraud on the court but blatant extortion of defendants,” said superior court judge Victoria Chaney. “I cannot in good conscience allow this case to continue.”

The judge announced her ruling in open court late yesterday, dismissing with prejudice the cases that were brought on behalf of Nicaraguan citizens who claimed they were sterile as a result of exposure to the pesticide DBCP on Dole-contracted Nicaraguan banana farms over three decades ago.

In her ruling, Chaney said: “I find by clear and convincing evidence and even beyond reasonable doubt that each and every one of the plaintiffs in the Rivera and Mejia cases have presented fraudulent documents and actively participated in a conspiracy to defraud this court and extort money from defendants. That alone … is more than enough to dismiss these claims with prejudice.”

The judge said that she would make appropriate referrals to prosecutorial authorities and state bar associations in California and possibly other states.

“The court’s ruling and findings confirm that Dole, its co-defendants and the superior court itself are victims of a wide-ranging fraud and a conspiracy and obstruction of justice,” said Michael Carter, Dole’s executive vice president and general counsel.

“These plaintiffs and their counsel made a mockery of our judicial system by bringing these fraudulent claims against Dole and this fraudulent behaviour and conspiracy implicates other cases pending in the United States and in Nicaragua.”