Ecuadorian Banana Farm Workers Address Statute of Limitations in Pesticide Exposure Suit

On Friday, the plaintiffs in a District of Delaware lawsuit purporting that Dole Food Company, Shell Oil Company, the Dow Chemical Company, and others allowed Ecuadorian farm workers to be exposed to harmful chemicals, specifically 1, 2, dibromo 3, chloropropane (DBCP), while working in banana fields filed an opposition to a motion from some of the defendants for summary judgment related to the statute of limitations. 

In the accompanying memorandum, the plaintiffs argued that Ecuador’s Organic and Constitutional law would not place a time limitation on the plaintiff’s claims, and that the claims should be governed using Delaware’s statute of limitations of two years. The plaintiffs further argued that they have provided enough evidence to show that they pursued their claims diligently. The memorandum supported their Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgement on the issue of the statute of limitations. 

According to the filing, the defendants that filed the initial motion for summary judgment, including Shell, Dow Chemical, Occidental Chemical Corporation, and Amvac, purported that under Ecuador’s law the claims would be governed by a four-year time bar, but the plaintiffs said this is incorrect as their claim is constitutional. Reportedly, Delaware Borrowing Statute requires the court to use the shorter law when comparing Delaware Law and the laws of the state or country where the legal action arose. 

The Ecuadorian farm workers purported that as the Delaware statute of limitations is shorter it should apply, even if the issue was not constitutional the Ecuadorian law regarding personal injury claims applied as Ecuador’s personal injury law allows for a four-year statute of limitations. 

The Delaware District Court matter began in May 2012 when the plaintiffs filed their initial complaint. The complaint purported that DBCP, which is used to protect crops from nematodes, microscopic worms, was sprayed while they were not wearing any protective covering or respiratory equipment, as “no Defendant ever informed them that they were in danger” or provided protective equipment. The workers claimed that they came in contact with a substantial amount of inhaled fumes and direct contact with DBCP which caused harm including sterility, cancer, other health hazards, and environmental harms. 

The plaintiffs are represented by, among others, Dalton and Knepper & Stratton. The defendants are represented by various counsel.