Dole Food (DOLE) has been ordered to pay the attorney's fees -- amounting to $200,000 -- of a Swedish documentary-film producer after previously suing the filmmaker for defamation. According to the production company, WG Film, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge determined that the documentary, which chronicled the company's treatment of its Nicaraguan workers, wasn't defamatory and fell within the "right of free speech."
Dole had filed the lawsuit last year after the documentary, "Bananas!" aired at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The film profiles Nicaraguan workers and their lawsuits against Dole over the company's use of pesticides. While the company withdrew the claim a year ago, the dismissal was "without prejudice," implying that Dole would be able to sue again later in an effort to prevent the film's distribution, according to the producer.
"Corporations such as Dole must respect freedom of speech and the freedom of the press," the film's director Fredrik Gertten said in a statement. "These conglomerates have unlimited resources available to them to get their messages out, while independent filmmakers who are under attack while trying to uncover the truth, have very limited means to defend ourselves.
Company representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyFinance on Thursday. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Dole said the ruling "in no way endorses the claims made in the film."
Aside from the Los Angeles Film Festival, "Bananas!" has screened at more than 50 other festivals worldwide, and its distribution rights have already been sold in 15 countries.