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Dole Foods has just been told, by a Los Angeles jury, that they are being held liable for civil punishment for not informing Nicaraguan plantation workers of potential health dangers from a pesticide.

The decision clears the way for punitive damages in addition to the $3.2 million that jurors awarded the workers earlier this week to compensate them for their injuries. The workers alleged they had been rendered sterile by the pesticide DBCP — now banned in the United States — which was used on Dole plantations

The six plantation workers involved in the suit also received a total of $754,000form the maker of the pesticide, Dow Chemical. The workers are to return to court on November 14 to begin the hearing for the punitive damages against Dole Foods. The jurors have already labeled the pesticide as a defective product, which may make the punitive damages higher.

So far, courts in Nicaragua have levied over $600 million in damages against Dole and other companies using the pesticide. This verdict has been the first were foreign farmworkers have won in a U.S. court against Dole Foods and Dow Chemical about the DBCP harm. Right now there are four more lawsuits pending in L.A. about health damage due to DBCP. Thousands of workers from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama are involved in the suits.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Workplace Injuries and Discrimination.

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