Tuesday, November 17, 2009

U.S. Judge Has Harsh Words for Nicaraguan Court System

Recently, U.S. District Court Judge Huck of the Southern District for Florida rejected an action to enforce a $97 million judgment against Dow Chemical Co. and Dole Food Co. obtained from a Nicaraguan court in the case of Sanchez Osorio v. Dole Food Co., S.D. Fla., No. 07-22693-CIV (10/20/09).  The suit had been filed by 150 Nicaraguan agricultural workers who alleged that their exposure to the pesticide dibromochloropropane left them sterile. In reaching its decision, the District Court had unusally strong words about the lack of due process and independence in Nicaraguan courts. The Court described the special Nicaraguan law enacted specifically for plaintiffs' claims as providing: "disparate treatment of defendants [which] is fatally unfair and discriminatory, fails to provide the minimum level of due process to which all foreign defendants are entitled, and is, therefore, incompatible with the requirements of due process of law under theunder the Florida Recognition Act."  The Court further held that the legal regime set up by Nicaraguan law in this case "does not comport with the “basic fairness” that the “international concept of due process” requires. . . It does not even come close. “Civilized 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 conclusion, the Court stated: The evidence before the Court is that the judgment in this case did not arise out of proceedings that comported with the international concept of due process. It arose out of proceedings that the Nicaraguan trial court did not have jurisdiction to conduct. 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. . .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. Finally, 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 posses a “system of jurisprudence likely to secure an impartial administration of justice.”

(cgb)  

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/international_law/2009/11/us-judge-has-harsh-words-for-nicaraguan-court-system.html

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