Despised Justice

After being sent back to their own country from the United States courts to litigate it there, the victims fought their cases and obtained judgments in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, in their ongoing efforts to avoid responsibility, the companies removed all of their assets and operations from Nicaragua requiring that the victims pursue collection of their judgments from other locations where their assets exist. Some United States courts have refused to allow collection of the valid judgments on grounds that the Nicaraguan court proceeding didn’t comport with U.S. Law requirements. This is an incongruous position since it was these very courts that required the cases to be removed from the United States to their home courts as the “more convenient adequate forum” using the “Forum non conveniens“ doctrine. As these companies have substantial activity in France and Europe, collection is permissible and obtainable here. And for the first time in the tortured history of their pursuit of civil justice, the sterilized farmers can finally be paid their awarded compensation by action here, in France.

*Forum Non Conveniens
A common law legal doctrine whereby courts may refuse to take jurisdiction over matters where there is a more appropriate forum available to the parties.

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The individual judgments entered under Nicaraguan law are substantially similar and have precedent by way of verdicts entered in the United States for men sustaining similar injuries as the Nicaraguan Plaintiffs. A California jury awarded Steven Sarras $995,125.00 dollars and Richard Perez was awarded a sum of $1,923,750.00 dollars. There is a substantial difference between such victims. There is no social protection for Nicaraguan workers. If you bear no children, you have no support network for your old age. You must work until you die. You lose your legacy.

The judgment holders are all workers who labored as banana workers on behalf of one or more of the international banana companies including the Standard Fruit Company, Dole Fresh Fruit International, Dole Food Company, Chiquita Brands, Inc., Chiquita International N.A., Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc., and the Del Monte Tropical Fruit Company. Their services occurred from the year 1970 until the year 1980 performing all kinds of cultural tasks as banana farmers managed by the above-mentioned corporations in Nicaragua.

They were in charge of harvesting and growing the banana production, a comprehensive process that included all aspects from planting the banana tree, all kinds of cultural and labor activities such as application of fertilizers, pesticides and fumigation, harvesting and packaging the product in boxes and bags to export it and to sell it in foreign countries.

In harvesting and producing banana, the banana workers were exposed to the action of the subject chemicals as a consequence of the application in the banana plantations to exercise control of parasitic worms called nematodes.

Legal Statutory Frame of Nicaragua

The science discoveries and activities which informed the manufacturers and transnational sellers of the dangers of the pesticide all were developed in the United States. Yet, when injured farmers from Central America brought claims against the United States based companies in the United States they utilized the doctrine of ‘forum non conveniens’ to transfer the cases back to the countries in which the farmers were injured. This doctrine is often implemented because the defendant corporations seeking the transfer believe that the victim will find no attorney willing to bring the case in their home country where discovery mechanisms are much less likely to assist the victim in developing his case. The U.S. lawyers cannot practice law in those countries, so the cases often simply are never pursued. A forum nonconveniens dismissal often means that the case will never be pursued.

In order to protect the banana workers whose cases were required by the U.S courts to be litigated in their own country even though the entities causing the harm were in the United States, the Government of Nicaragua enacted Law Number 364 on December 23, 2000, published in La Gaceta Official , Official Newsletter Number twelve of January seventeen year two thousand one. This law constitutes a historical and legal precedent, in which a legal procedure was established to compensate the workers who can prove that they were damaged physically and psychologically by the “DBCP”exposures.

LAW N° 364

This law established a minimum liability for the defendants in the amount of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS or its equivalent in local currency at the moment of payment for each claimant who proves his claim. It also established a mandatory deposit for the defendants of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS or its equivalent in local currency, as a bond amount to be deposited by the defendants to assure and guarantee the financial liability arising from the trial, if any, and as a precondition to be fulfilled in order to participate in the trial.

But the judgments which occurred are not only based on Law 364. Multiple provisions of Nicaraguan law regarding legal liability were also pled and used by the Court in entering the subject judgments.

Yet, when the victims tried their cases and presented their evidence under the applicable laws of the very Nicaraguan legal forum in which the defendant transnational corporations compelled them to be tried, the results in defendants’ favor did not occur as they had expected. The Court entered multiple judgments in favor of the victims harmed by DBCP upon a review of the substantial evidence presented at trial. Taking those judgments back to the United States in order to collect the judgments became the ultimate insult to the victims: certain U.S. Courts determined that the proceedings in Nicaragua were “unfair” to the defendants…the same defendants who used years of legal effort to send them to Nicaragua in the first place. The only thing “unfair” was the arrogance of the U.S. Courts to send these cases to their home countries for trial under their laws, and then to find unfair those laws which were applied which did not result in a victory for the protected U.S. Transnational companies, disqualifying them from collection in the United States court system.