Multiple lawsuits filed in the US by a group of Latin American Banana Plantation Workers have been upheld after dismissals in other courts. The crux of these suits is the exposure workers faced to pesticides and chemicals, in particular dibromochloropropane (DBCP) which is linked to cancer.
The lawsuit names Dole Foods, Chiquita, Dow Chemical, and a host of other companies alleges that the named parties deliberately and knowingly exposed workers to dibromochloropropane (DBCP). Banned in the US, dibromochloropropane (DBCP) can cause cancer and infertility-sterility.
Workers claim having contact with dibromochloropropane (DBCP) when working at banana plantations where dibromochloropropane (DBCP) was being used in the fields to eradicate roundworms. The US EPA banned dibromochloropropane (DBCP) between 19977 – 1979, allowing an exemption for pineapple farming but by 1985 a complete ban had come into effect.
The lawsuit claims that workers weren’t given and protection against exposure to dibromochloropropane (DBCP). There was no protective clothing or equipment such as respirators when the chemical was applied to fields or introduced directly into the soil. Because of the contact with dibromochloropropane (DBCP), workers have developed cancer, in particular renal or kidney cancer, as well as reproductive issues such and infertility and sterility.
At issue is the nature of the farming and how it contributed to exposure. Banana trees have large, wide leaves. When growing in rows in a plantation, they create a large canopy which is basically a roof of leaves. Workers allege fumes and vapors from the dibromochloropropane (DBCP) would collect under the canopy where they worked in high concentrations where they were forced to breathe it in while working or have it come into contact with their skin.
Litigation has been a 20+ year process for workers, with the suit weaving in and out of various courts across the United States judicial system. Originating in Texas, migrating to Louisiana, with a filing in Delaware as a protective measure in case, the statutes ran out. Courts in Delaware dismissed the suit but that was overturned in a 11-0 decision by the US Court of Appeals of the 3rd Circuit.
The plaintiffs (workers) have been accused of “forum shopping” by Dole, Chiquita, & Dow Chemical vis-a-vie filing in two separate courts, but a judge ruled that as the plaintiffs were indifferent to which state courts system heard the case, no benefit came to the plaintiffs.
Dow Chemical has commented that the cases are without merit and that the Louisiana case was not filed in a timely manner, exceeding the limits of the statute, claiming this as the reason multiple filing where made by the plaintiffs.
There have been other suits filed with similar accusations and circumstances, and those suits have resulted in settlements of several millions of dollars.