Fraud by Trial Lawyers Taints Wave of Pesticide Lawsuits:
By STEVE STECKLOW
CHINANDEGA, Nicaragua -- After responding to a radio commercial seeking former banana-plantation workers for a lawsuit against Dole Food Co., Marcos Sergio Medrano thought he might be entitled to some money. He says an American law firm convinced him that a pesticide used on the Dole-operated banana plantation where he had worked years ago had made him sterile.
Lawyers for the 49-year-old peasant produced tests that purported to prove it. But DNA testing by Dole revealed that he had fathered three children -- something Mr. Medrano says was news to him. "I don't feel good about this," he says now. "I feel I was involved in foul play."
Mr. Medrano is part of the sorry fallout from a group of U.S. personal-injury and other lawyers who descended on this small, impoverished city, seeking to recruit thousands of clients and earn up to 40% of any awards. Emboldened by a developing-world legal system that heavily favored plaintiffs, they filed an avalanche of lawsuits here against California-based Dole and eventually won $2.1 billion in local judgments... more...