LOS ANGELES (CN) – A judge granted nearly $200,000 in attorney fees to the director and producer of “Bananas!,” a documentary depicting the alleged exploitation of Nicaraguan banana plantation workers.
The film tracked the story of Los Angeles attorney Juan Dominguez, who won punitive damages against Dole. The 2007 verdict was overturned this year after it was revealed that the workers had lied about becoming sterile from pesticides Dole used in the 1970s.
Dole sued director Fredrik Gertten and producer Margarete Jangard, claiming they defamed the company by portraying Dominguez “as the noble David justly slaying the evil Goliath.” Dole said it informed Gertten and Jangard of the fraud, but they screened the film anyway.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ralph Dau tossed Dole’s defamation claim, saying the documentary’s depiction of Dominguez was not as glowing as Dole claimed, and “one cannot complain of a false portrayal of someone else.”
“Even aside from the reality that the impression one might draw from the portrayal of attorney Juan Dominguez from the film is not necessarily positive … it also portrays Dominguez as what one might conclude is an ‘ambulance chaser’ who lives a lavish and garish lifestyle and whose practice is more style than substance,” Dau wrote.
The film also noted that the verdict was overturned for serious fraud allegations and that appeals court Justice Victoria Chaney dismissed two pending related cases brought by banana workers.
Dau said a “careful review of the film” did not support Dole’s claim that it “‘falsely accuses Dole of recklessly and indiscriminately deluging banana workers with DBCP through aerial spraying and other saturation methods.'”
The film “shows the use of water cannons spraying pesticides,” Dau noted. “In none of these shots are workers present while DBCP is being sprayed.”
Dau ruled that if Dole had not voluntarily dismissed its defamation action through a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP motion, the court would have granted Gertten and Jangard’s motion to strike.