(CN) – A federal judge in the nation’s capital said he lacked jurisdiction over a class action accusing a multinational banana producer of concealing a fungicide’s dangerous health effects on Ecuadorian workers.
Workers exposed to Mancozeb, an agrochemical used to prevent the “black banana” fungus, sued CropLife’s international, Ecuadorian and U.S. branches.
CropLife specializes in crop protection and plant biotechnology.
Class members included pilots who sprayed the banana plants, ground crew members, plantation workers, nearby residents, and the Ecuadorian municipality of Pueblo Viejo.
They said CropLife “failed to warn [banana plantation] workers and other exposed persons of [Mancozeb’s] hazardous nature” and hid information about the fungicide’s toxicity.
Class members argued that the District of Columbia’s long-arm statute gave the district court in Washington, D.C., jurisdiction over their claims, even though the alleged misconduct took place in Ecuador.
However, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton pointed out that the long-arm statute is for cases with a significant connection between the claims and the District of Columbia, something he found lacking in the CropLife case.
Because Walton has already dismissed the claims against Crop Life America and CropLife International, the alleged hub of the Mancozeb conspiracy in Ecuador, the judge said he lacked jurisdiction over CropLife Ecuador.
He also denied a request for further discovery, saying even firm evidence of communication would not confer jurisdiction.
The plaintiffs’ claims against Dole Food Company, which sold Mancozeb-sprayed bananas, were dismissed in 2009.