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Chaverri v. Dole Food Company, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware

November 8, 2019

Eduardo Alvarado CHAVERRI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DOLE FOOD COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants.

         Submitted: September 25, 2019

Page 914

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 915

         Upon Plaintiffs’ Motion to Vacate Judgment Under Rule 60(b)(6), DENIED

         Andrew C. Dalton, Esquire, Dalton & Associates, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, Scott M. Hendler, Esquire, Hendler Flores, PLLC, Austin, Texas, Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

         Somers S. Price, Jr., Esquire, Potter, Anderson & Corroon LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Andrea Neuman, Esquire, Thomas Manakides, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendants Dole Food Company, Inc., Dole Fresh Fruit Company, Standard Fruit Company, and Standard Fruit and Steamship Company.

         Adam Orlacchio, Esquire, Brandon McCune, Esquire, Blank Rome LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Defendants Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Chiquita Brands, LLC, and Chiquita Fresh North America, LLC.

         Donald E. Reid, Esquire, Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Michael L. Brem, Esquire, Shirrmeister, Diaz-Arrastia, Brem, LLP, Houston, Texas, Attorneys for Defendant Dow Chemical Company.

         Timothy Jay Houseal, Esquire, Jennifer M. Kinkus, Esquire, William E. Gamgort, Esquire, Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Occidental Chemical Corporation.

         John C. Phillips, Esquire, Phillips, Goldman, McLaughlin & Hall, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Defendant AMVAC Chemical Corporation.

         Kelly E. Farnan, Esquire, Katharine L. Mowery, Esquire, Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, Craig Stanfield, King & Spalding, LLP, Houston, Texas, Attorneys for Defendant Shell Oil Company.

         James Semple, Esquire, Cooch & Taylor, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Defendant Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Rocanelli, J.

         Six years ago today, this Court dismissed this case on grounds of forum non conveniens under Delaware’s McWane Doctrine[1] ("November 2013 Dismissal Order").[2] The basis for dismissal of this action was that the claims made in this Court had already been filed in in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ("Louisiana District Court"). By the time this Court granted

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the motion to dismiss at issue here, the Louisiana District Court had already dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims on statute of limitations grounds and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had already affirmed the Louisiana District Court’s dismissal on those grounds. The Delaware Supreme Court, sitting en banc, adopted this Court’s reasoning and affirmed the November 2013 Dismissal Order on October 20, 2014.[3] Accordingly, this lawsuit was dismissed because Plaintiffs had first pursued their claims in another court even though the claims in that other court had already been dismissed.

          Now Plaintiffs have moved to vacate the November 2013 Dismissal Order pursuant to Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) on the basis that "[t]hree groundbreaking rulings" issued since the November 2013 Dismissal Order have so radically disrupted the legal foundations of this Court’s November 2013 Dismissal Order that the dismissal can no longer stand. Defendants oppose Plaintiffs’ Motion.

          FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

          Plainitffs’ claims arise from alleged exposure to the pesticide 1, 2, dibromo 3, chloropropane ("DBCP") by persons employed on various banana farms throughout Central America, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama.

          I. Litigation in Texas and Various "Home" Countries

         In 1993, Plaintiffs’ Texas counsel filed a class action lawsuit in Texas state court ("Texas State Action") on behalf of all persons allegedly exposed to DBCP between 1965 and 1990 as a result of actions taken by Defendants.[4] In 1994, Defendants removed the Texas State Action to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas ("Texas District Court"), where the case was consolidated with other DBCP cases ("Texas Federal Action").[5]

         In 1995, the Texas District Court dismissed the Texas Federal Action for forum non conveniens, finding the courts of Plaintiffs’ home countries better suited to resolve Plaintiffs’ claims ("Dismissal Order").[6] However, the Dismissal Order permitted Plaintiffs to return to the Texas District Court to resume the Texas Federal Action "in the event that the highest court of any foreign country finally affirms the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of any action commenced by a plaintiff in these actions."[7]

         After the foreign courts declined jurisdiction, in 2004, the Texas Federal Action was reinstated and the claims remanded to the Texas state court[8] where the parties litigated Plaintiffs’ claims until 2010 when the Texas state court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.[9]

          II. Plaintiffs Pursue ...


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