Villareal v. Dole Food Company, Inc., et al., 09:-cv-00189 (C.D. CA. 01/29/09)

Thousands of banana plantation farmers in Latin America have filed suits in California state courts against some of the most recognizable banana vendors in the world. Their claims you ask: exposure to pesticides and chemicals have resulted in serious injuries, including sterility. The CAFA Law Blog appreciates that sterility is a sensitive issue, so let’s just refer to it in this post as the “banana problem.”

The plaintiffs with the banana problem elected not to bring one class action, but rather divided alphabetically and by country into several cases against the various vendors. Each class had less than 100 plaintiffs, just like banana bunches sprouting from the same tree. 

The defendants were not impressed by this procedural posture, apparently thinking that some of these green bananas just weren’t ripe … or maybe some were shriveled and mushy … who knows what the defendants were thinking. Maybe they were thinking about plantains (which can also be green and shaft-like)? And just why are plantains different from bananas? Who knows? Anyway, the defendants argued that these individual actions should be considered one action under CAFA to make it amenable for removal to the federal system.

The district court ruled that defendants had slipped on their own banana peel, rejecting their CAFA arguments. The court noted that removal statutes are strictly construed, that the actions were not mass actions under CAFA, and that nothing in CAFA suggested that plaintiffs could not bring multiple actions to keep their claims in state court. The court ordered additional briefing on why it should not remand back to state court.

Will the plaintiff end up with banana splits or just banana pudding? We will keep you UP to date