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Union Seeks to Invalidate $2.9 Million Judgment, Blames Lawyer

September 9, 1993

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The United Farm Workers asked a court to overturn a $2.9 million judgment against the union, saying its lawyer never disclosed that he was diagnosed with depression and was ill-prepared for the high-stakes case.

In papers filed Wednesday in Superior Court, the union places much of the blame for its trial loss on attorney Carlos Castro.

A Superior Court jury in Yuma, Ariz., on June 10 awarded Bruce Church Inc. of Salinas, Calif., $2.9 million after the grower claimed a UFW boycott scared grocery chains into dropping its Red Coach brand of lettuce in the mid-1980s.

Castro, who withdrew from the case in March, said the union knew about his depression and that his condition didn’t affect his performance.

The UFW lost its first bid to have the Yuma verdict overturned by the trial judge. It filed the new action in Los Angeles because most of its assets are there, UFW officials said. It seeks to make the Arizona court ruling invalid in California.

The judgment, if upheld, could financially destroy the union, which has about $2 million in assets.

The union was founded by Cesar Chavez, who died in his sleep in April before he could finish testifying in the case.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, an Imperial Valley grower was ordered Wednesday to pay $2.5 million to 200 farmworkers.

The state Agricultural Labor Relations Board approved an agreement between the UFW and the family of late grower Mario Saikhon, which produces lettuce, broccoli and cantaloupe. The UFW had sought $4 million, contending the Saikhon family illegally refused to rehire the farmworkers after a 1979 strike.

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