Dole Food Company, Inc. announced today that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida has issued an order denying recognition and enforcement of a $97 million Nicaragua judgment against Dole and another U.S. company.
In the Court’s Order Denying Recognition of Judgment in Miguel Angel Sanchez Osorio et al. v. Dole Food Company et al., Judge Paul C. Huck cited separate and independent grounds for non-recognition: the Nicaragua trial court did not have jurisdiction over the defendant companies; the judgment did not arise out of proceedings that comported with the international concept of due process; the judgment was rendered under a system which does not provide impartial tribunal or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law; and the cause of action or claim for relief on which the judgment is based is repugnant to the public policy of Florida.
Judge Huck noted that “the credible and unrefuted medical testimony in this case is that it is factually impossible for what is represented in the Judgment to have occurred,” and that due process “do[es] not permit awarding damages in the face of clear scientific evidence of the absence of causation,” or, as in this case, “with proof that [the defendants] are not at fault.”
“The evidence before the Court is that the judgment … arose out of proceedings that the Nicaraguan trial court did not have jurisdiction to conduct,” stated Judge Huck. “During those proceedings, the court applied a law that unfairly discriminates against a handful of foreign defendants with extraordinary procedures and presumptions found nowhere else in Nicaraguan law. Both the substantive law under which this case was tried, Special Law 364, and the Judgment itself, purport to establish facts that do not, and cannot, exist in reality. As a result, the law under which this case was tried stripped Defendants of their basic right in any adversarial proceeding to produce evidence in their favor and rebut the plaintiffs’ claims.”
Judge Huck went on to state that “the judgment was rendered under a system in which political strongmen exert their control over a weak and corrupt judiciary, such that Nicaragua does not possess a system of jurisprudence likely to secure an impartial administration of justice.”
“The Court’s ruling indicates that corruption and a total lack of due process is the norm for the Nicaragua judicial system,” said C. Michael Carter, Dole’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “The laws and procedures on which this judgment has been awarded in Nicaragua are absolutely contrary to the international concepts of fairness and due process.”
According to Judge Huck, “[c]ivilized nations do not typically require defendants to pay out millions of dollars without proof that they are responsible for the alleged injuries … Civilized nations do not target and discriminate against a handful of foreign companies and subject them to minimum damages so dramatically out of proportion with damage awards against resident defendants. …”
In reference to political corruption of the judiciary, Judge Huck went on to state that Nicaragua’s “Special Law 364 and its application in the Osorio proceedings could well serve as Exhibit A evidencing the lack of independent tribunals in Nicaragua. The passage of Special Law 364 is itself further evidence of undue political meddling in Nicaragua’s judicial process.”
Dole is the world's largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and is the leading producer of organic bananas. Dole markets a growing line of packaged and frozen foods and is a produce industry leader in nutrition education and research.
This release contains “forward-looking statements,” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Forward looking statements, which are based on management’s current expectations, are generally identifiable by the use of terms such as “may,” “will,” “expects,” “believes,” “intends,” “anticipates” and similar expressions. The potential risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied herein include weather-related phenomena; market responses to industry volume pressures; product and raw materials supplies and pricing; energy supply and pricing; changes in interest and currency exchange rates; economic crises; security risks in developing countries; international conflict; and quotas, tariffs and other governmental actions. Further information on the factors that could affect Dole’s financial results is included in its SEC filings.
Marty Ordman, 818-874-4834