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Jury says Dole maliciously harmed 5 banana workers

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LOS ANGELES--A Superior Court jury ruled Wednesday that the Dole Fresh Fruit Co acted maliciously in harming five of six workers who say they were left sterile by a pesticide used on a Nicaraguan banana plantation in the 1970s.

The ruling sets the stage for Dole to pay punitive damages on top of $3.3 million in actual damages the jury awarded the six workers on Monday. The seven-man, five-woman jury was to return to court next week to determine the amount of punitive damages.

The workers' lawsuit accused Dole and Standard Fruit Co., now part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide DBCP in the 1970s. The chemical was used to kill microscopic worms on the roots of banana plants.

"We are quite pleased on behalf of our clients that Dole has seen their day in court and has finally been held accountable for what they did," the workers' attorney, Duane Miller, said after Wednesday's verdict.

Dole attorney Rick McKnight declined comment.

Twelve workers originally filed suit, but in issuing Monday's ruling jurors said only six had been substantially harmed by the pesticide. Wednesday's verdict concluded that only five had been maliciously harmed.

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