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DynCorp lawsuits (re Colombia & Ecuador)

pesticide spray

Para la versión en español de este perfil de caso, haga clic acá.

DynCorp is a contractor under “Plan Colombia” – a programme of the Colombian and US Governments to combat production of illicit drugs – hired to aerially spray coca and poppy plants with herbicide in parts of Colombia.  Some Ecuadorian farmers from areas bordering Colombia allege that they were affected by this aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate because DynCorp also sprayed sections of Ecuador bordering Colombia. 

In September 2001, a group of these farmers filed a class-action lawsuit against DynCorp under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), the Torture Victim Protection Act and state law claims in US federal court in the District of Columbia.  The plaintiffs claimed that from January to February 2001 DynCorp sprayed the herbicide almost daily, in a reckless manner, causing severe health problems (high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dermatological problems) and the destruction of food crops and livestock of approximately 10,000 residents of the border region.  In addition, the plaintiffs alleged that the toxicity of the fumigant caused the deaths of four infants in this region.  The plaintiffs alleged under ATCA that DynCorp’s intensive aerial spraying of a toxic fumigant amounted to torture, a crime against humanity and cultural genocide. 

DynCorp moved to dismiss the case, arguing that it raised nonjusticiable questions of foreign and national security policy.  DynCorp also argued that the plaintiffs’ claims of violations of international law were based on actions by DynCorp that were expressly authorised by the US Congress under Plan Colombia.  In May 2007, the district court granted DynCorp’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act, but ordered that the balance of the plaintiffs’ claims should stand.  The court found that the case did not raise nonjusticiable questions because the action did not call into question US foreign policy in Colombia.  The court also found that the claims raised by the plaintiffs were outside the scope of the Congressional authorisation of DynCorp’s contract. 

In 2009, the plaintiffs requested that DynCorp is compelled to disclose flight location data of operations conducted next to the Ecuadorean border.  They argued the flight data would corroborate eyewitness accounts of “Plan Colombia” spray planes entering Ecuador.   On 30 April 2010, the court issued an order compelling production of documents with DynCorp’s non-spray flight line.  The company appealed, arguing that the security risks stemming from releasing the information outweighed the data’s relevance to plaintiffs’ case.  On 23 April 2012, the court dismissed DynCorp’s request stating the non-spray data was potentially useful to the plaintiffs’ case.  In February 2013 the court ruled in favour of DynCorp and dismissed the case finding that the evidence presented was not sufficient to prove the injuries claimed by the plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal and achieved a partial reversal.  An appeals court remanded the case back to the lower court on the claims of battery, nuisance and emotional distress.  The court decided to permit the claims of 20 selected test plaintiffs to proceed to trial, but the rulings would not bind the 2000+ plaintiffs alleging exposure to the chemical as the allegations are specific to each individual.  After a 19 October 2016 status conference, a federal judge allowed 6 test plaintiffs' battery and emotional distress (IIED) claims to proceed to trial.  On 3 April 2017, the case went to jury trial in the US District Court of District of Colombia on behalf of the 2000+ victims.  The same month, the jury found DynCorp responsible for subcontractors who carried out chemical spraying in Colombia but rejects damages payout for Ecuadorian farmers.

In December 2006, 1660 citizens of the Ecuadorian provinces of Esmeraldas and Sucumbios who were not part of the class-action lawsuit described above filed a separate lawsuit against DynCorp in US federal court in Florida.  The provinces of Carchi, Esmeraldas and Sucumbios also sued DynCorp in Florida federal court over the spraying, in lawsuits filed in December 2006, and March and April 2007.  The plaintiffs in these four cases allege that DynCorp’s spraying of fumigants injured the residents of these provinces, for which they are bringing claims under Florida state law, Ecuadorian law and international law.

 

- [video] "Dyncorp's 'strategic' defense in drug crop spraying suit", Bloomberg Law, 14 May 2013
- "DynCorp dodges Ecuadoreans Chemical-Exposure suit", Gavin Broady, Law360, 6 Mar 2013
- "Discovery Spat Resolved in Alien Tort Case Over 'Plan Colombia'", Ross Todd, Litigation Daily [USA], 26 Apr 2012
- “DynCorp International: Faces Lawsuit in DC Over ‘Plan Colombia’”, Class Action Reporter, 17 Jan 2006
- “Farmers Fight DynCorp's Chemwar on the Amazon”, Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch, 27 Feb 2002
- “Ecuadorians File U.S. Suit Over Plan Colombia”, Danielle Knight, Inter Press Service, 24 Sep 2001

DynCorp International 
DynCorp International Again Wins State Department Contract for Narcotics Eradication and Interdiction, 19 May 2005

International Rights Advocates [co-counsel for plaintiffs]
Dyncorp - Case Summary

- US Dept of State, Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs: Aerial Eradication of Illicit Coca in Colombia [links to annual State Dept reports on this subject]

 

US District Court for District of Columbia, Arias v. DynCorp 

- [PDF] Memorandum Opinion re disclosure of documents, 24 Apr 2012
- [PDF] Memorandum Opinion and Order, 21 May 2007
- [PDF] Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, 7 Jan 2002
- [DOC] Class Action Complaint, 11 Sep 2001
- [PDF] Earthrights International amicus brief, 9 Mar 2002

 

The aerial spraying of fumigants has also resulted in a diplomatic dispute between the Governments of Ecuador and Colombia.

- [PDF] Aerial spraying knows no borders: Ecuador brings international case over aerial spraying, Transnational Institute, Drug Policy Briefing, Sep 2005
- Organization of American States: At OAS, Ecuador Presents Complaint About Colombia’s Aerial Spraying of Herbicides Along Border, 9 Jan 2007
- Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense: Plan Colombia: Legal Violations and Court Cases, [links to decisions regarding domestic Colombian and Ecuadorian legal challenges to the aerial spraying under Plan Colombia]

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All components of this story

Article
21 April 2017

Jury Finds DynCorp Responsible for the Actions of Plan Colombia Pilots Who Conducted Fumigations After April 2003

Author: International Rights Advocates

[A] federal jury returned a verdict in the first of the test trials against DynCorp International... [The case was initially filed] in 2001 on behalf of over 2,000 Ecuadoran farmers who live near the border with Colombia and allege that they had their farms destroyed when the toxic chemicals used by DynCorp to kill coca and poppy plants was also sprayed on their farms...the case was finally set for trial on behalf of six (6) test plaintiffs...DynCorp’s major defense was that they were not responsible for any of the damages to the Ecuadoran farmers because they were not flying the spray missions themselves...The jury concluded that DynCorp was responsible for EAST [a subcontractor's]  pilots...[and] that in April, 2003, EAST took over control...making DynCorp liable for all spray pilots fumigating after that date...All of the first six test Plaintiffs had claims that pre-dated April, 2003...The jury was accordingly unable to award damages...DynCorp will be estopped from arguing they are not responsible for any harm caused by the spray pilots post-April, 2003...

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Article
21 April 2017

US jury rejects damages for Ecuadoran farmers in coca-eradication spraying

Author: Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post (USA)

A U.S. jury in Washington declined to award damages...in a trial testing claims by the first six of 2,000 Ecuadoran farmers who allege that they were poisoned by [DynCorp] in a years-long coca-eradication campaign by the U.S. and Colombian governments...The farmers accused the firm of recklessly spraying them, their families and crops when fumigant drifted south across the Colombia-Ecuador border...The 10-person jury found DynCorp responsible for [a] subcontractor's pilots between 2000 and 2007, but not for employees of Colombian law enforcement. Because farmers could not say which pilot was at the controls of any individual plane, the jury rejected any claim before roughly April 2003 - the time frame when the Colombian police agency was engaged and when the six farmers in the case alleged they were sprayed...Attorneys for the farmers said they were disappointed by the verdict but pleased jurors found DynCorp could be held responsible for its subcontractor's actions after April 2003..DynCorp attorneys denied that anyone acted recklessly or intentionally to spray the farmers and argued there was no evidence of spray drifting at the times and places alleged by farmers...

[also refers to Monsanto]

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Article
20 April 2017

US jury deliberates in lawsuit against DynCorp alleging damage to land & health caused by chemical spraying in Colombia

Author: Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post (USA)

"Were peasant farmers poisoned by the U.S. war on drugs? A jury has the case.", 19 Apr 2017

After a 15-year legal battle, a U.S. jury will begin deliberations Wednesday over whether a U.S. security contractor must pay damages to as many as 2,000 Ecuadoran farmers who say they were poisoned by the U.S. and Colombian governments’ years-long, coca-eradication campaign...“This is a historic case,” said plaintiffs attorney and International Rights Advocates Director Terrence P. Collingsworth. “A jury will finally [decide whether] DynCorp aerially sprayed a toxic poison . . . on thousands of Ecuadoran farmers and killed their crops, their animals, and caused untold misery for the farmers and their families.”...DynCorp spokesmen have said that health problems experienced by farmers were because of other causes...Company attorneys...denied that anyone acted recklessly or intentionally to spray the farmers...[Also refers to Monsanto]

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Article
3 April 2017

US trial begins in lawsuit against DynCorp over damage to land & health allegedly caused by chemical spraying in Colombia

Author: International Rights Advocates

"Trial Starts April 3, 2017 in 15-year old Human Rights Case, Quinteros v. Dyncorp", 31 Mar 2017

On April 3, 2017, after a 15-year struggle with the notorious defense contractor, DynCorp International, International Rights Advocates, together with co-counsel Ted Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, will go to trial on behalf of more than 2,000 Ecuadoran plaintiffs at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to establish that when DynCorp implemented Plan Colombia, it unlawfully invaded Ecuadoran territory and fumigated thousands of farmers and ruined their farms...Since the initial filing of this case against DynCorp on September 11, 2001, International Rights Advocates has consistently prevailed after numerous attempts to dismiss this case – and are confident that a jury will finally bring DynCorp to justice and award substantial damages to the plaintiffs...“This is an historic case...A jury will finally get the chance to hear the evidence that DynCorp aerially sprayed a toxic poison that was designed to kill hardy coca plants on thousands of Ecuadoran farmers and killed their crops, their animals, and caused untold misery for the farmers and their families,” says Terry Collingsworth, Counsel for the Plaintiffs and Executive Director of International Rights Advocates.

Download the full document here

Article
23 March 2017

Lawsuits against DynCorp over damage to land & health allegedly caused by chemical spraying in Colombia to continue to jury trial in USA

Author: International Rights Advocates

"Please Support IRA in Bringing DynCorp to Justice", 21 Mar 2017

...After a 15-year struggle with the notorious defense contractor DynCorp International, we are going to trial on April 3, 2017 to establish that when DynCorp was implementing Plan Colombia, it unlawfully invaded Ecuadoran territory and fumigated thousands of farmers there and ruined their farms...We represent over 2,000 people who had their families injured and their farms destroyed when DynCorp unlawfully sprayed them with the chemical poison used in Plan Colombia to attempt to eradicate coca cultivation in Colombia...On April 3, 2017...6 Ecuadoran test plaintiffs, along with a bevy of accompanying witnesses, will finally have the opportunity to share their testimony before a jury at the U.S. District Court of D.C. in hopes of holding DynCorp accountable...Plaintiffs continuously prevailed after a number of attempts to dismiss this case...but right now, we are incurring massive expenses in Ecuador to facilitate testimony from our plaintiffs and witnesses for this trial as well as numerous other expenses and are requesting any assistance you may provide to ensure we have all the resources we need to be successful in this trial...

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Article
4 November 2016

US judge allows test claims against DynCorp for illness caused by chemical spraying in Colombia to continue

Author: Britain Eakin, Courthouse News (USA)

"Contractor to Face Chemical-Spray Claims", 3 Nov 2016

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of 19 Ecuadoreans who claim that a U.S. company sprayed a toxic herbicide on them as part of a campaign to combat Colombian drug cartels.  The 19 Ecuadorean "test" plaintiffs in the case say that DynCorp, which contracted with the U.S. State Department to carry out "Plan Colombia," sprayed them with glyphosate as part of an effort to eradicate cocaine and heroin poppy drug farms in Colombia. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said the record shows that DynCorp engaged in "a consistent pattern of reckless behavior."  "Defendants were repeatedly informed that their pilots were spraying chemicals on communities in Ecuador...yet continued to carry out spray operations in a manner that deeply troubled Ecuadorian population centers...DynCorp insisted wind patterns were to blame for drift of the toxin, but Huvelle disagreed...The consolidated class action has been winding its way through the courts since 2001...Huvelle allowed five test claims of severe emotional distress to survive, but tossed out all of the nuisance claims...

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Article
15 July 2016

DynCorp Chem Spray Suit Given Second Wind

Author: Jimmy Hoover, Law 360 (USA)

A D.C. federal judge gave some much-needed lifeblood to two lawsuits against DynCorp over an anti-drug herbicide operation in Colombia...During a hearing Friday on DynCorp International Inc.’s summary judgment bid, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said that all future rulings for 20 “test” plaintiffs would not bind the larger group, considering the allegations are factually specific to each individual...Judge Huvelle had inherited the cases after U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts...resigned...The original suit, filed Sept. 11, 2001, sought damages from DynCorp on behalf of individuals allegedly exposed to a toxic herbicide sprayed on suspected drug farms in Colombia under a...cooperative program between the U.S. and Colombia...Judge Roberts found the plaintiffs' expert witness failed to establish causation at trial and dismissed counts of personal injury, property damage, and damage to public health in March 2013.  On Friday, DynCorp pressed the court to grant summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ remaining claims...[Subscription required]

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Article
14 April 2014

Ecuadoreans Press DC Circ. To Revive DynCorp Chemical Suit [USA]

Author: Erica Teichert, Law360

A group of…Ecuadoreans urged the D.C. Circuit to revive their lawsuit [against]…DynCorp International Inc…saying the trial court never warned them that their claims were in jeopardy during a limited summary judgment proceeding. [P]laintiffs counsel Christian Levesque [said]…U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts' summary judgment order only should have applied to the test plaintiffs'…claims…rather than the case at large..."DynCorp never moved for summary judgment against the nontest plaintiffs," Levesque said…[A]ll three appellate judges questioned why the Ecuadorean plaintiffs ran to D.C. Circuit with a massive appeal rather than raising their concerns about the summary judgment order's scope with the lower court…But the judges also recognized that Judge Roberts failed to notify the plaintiffs that he was considering a more overarching ruling in the case, and that error could lead to reversal…

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Lawsuit
18 February 2014

DynCorp lawsuit (re Colombia & Ecuador)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Para la versión en español de este perfil de caso, haga clic acá.

 

DynCorp is a contractor under “Plan Colombia” – a programme of the Colombian and US Governments to combat production of illicit drugs – hired to aerially spray coca and poppy plants with herbicide in parts of Colombia.  Some Ecuadorian farmers from areas bordering Colombia allege that they were affected by this aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate because DynCorp also sprayed sections of Ecuador bordering Colombia.  In September 2001, a group of these farmers filed a class-action lawsuit against DynCorp under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), the Torture Victim Protection Act and state law claims in US federal court in the District of Columbia.  The plaintiffs claimed that from January to February 2001 DynCorp sprayed the herbicide almost daily, in a reckless manner, causing severe health problems (high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dermatological problems) and the destruction of food crops and livestock of approximately 10,000 residents of the border region.  In addition, the plaintiffs alleged that the toxicity of the fumigant caused the deaths of four infants in this region.  The plaintiffs alleged under ATCA that DynCorp’s intensive aerial spraying of a toxic fumigant amounted to torture, a crime against humanity and cultural genocide.  DynCorp moved to dismiss the case, arguing that it raised nonjusticiable questions of foreign and national security policy.  DynCorp also argued that the plaintiffs’ claims of violations of international law were based on actions by DynCorp that were expressly authorised by the US Congress under Plan Colombia.  In May 2007, the district court granted DynCorp’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act, but ordered that the balance of the plaintiffs’ claims should stand.  The court found that the case did not raise nonjusticiable questions because the action did not call into question US foreign policy in Colombia.  The court also found that the claims raised by the plaintiffs were outside the scope of the Congressional authorisation of DynCorp’s contract.  In 2009, the plaintiffs requested that DynCorp is compelled to disclose flight location data of operations conducted next to the Ecuadorean border.  They argued the flight data would corroborate eyewitness accounts of “Plan Colombia” spray planes entering Ecuador.   On 30 April 2010, the court issued an order compelling production of documents with DynCorp’s non-spray flight line.  The company appealed, arguing that the security risks stemming from releasing the information outweighed the data’s relevance to plaintiffs’ case.  On 23 April 2012, the court dismissed DynCorp’s request stating the non-spray data was potentially useful to the plaintiffs’ case.  In February 2013 the court ruled in favour of DynCorp and dismissed the case finding that the evidence presented was not sufficient to prove the injuries claimed by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs plan to appeal this dismissal.

In December 2006, 1660 citizens of the Ecuadorian provinces of Esmeraldas and Sucumbios who were not part of the class-action lawsuit described above filed a separate lawsuit against DynCorp in US federal court in Florida.  The provinces of Carchi, Esmeraldas and Sucumbios also sued DynCorp in Florida federal court over the spraying, in lawsuits filed in December 2006, and March and April 2007.  The plaintiffs in these four cases allege that DynCorp’s spraying of fumigants injured the residents of these provinces, for which they are bringing claims under Florida state law, Ecuadorian law and international law.

 

- [video] "Dyncorp's 'strategic' defense in drug crop spraying suit", Bloomberg Law, 14 May 2013
- "DynCorp dodges Ecuadoreans Chemical-Exposure suit", Gavin Broady, Law360, 6 Mar 2013
- "Discovery Spat Resolved in Alien Tort Case Over 'Plan Colombia'", Ross Todd, Litigation Daily [USA], 26 Apr 2012
- “DynCorp International: Faces Lawsuit in DC Over ‘Plan Colombia’”, Class Action Reporter, 17 Jan 2006

- “Farmers Fight DynCorp's Chemwar on the Amazon”, Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch, 27 Feb 2002

- “Ecuadorians File U.S. Suit Over Plan Colombia”, Danielle Knight, Inter Press Service, 24 Sep 2001

 

- DynCorp International: DynCorp International Again Wins State Department Contract for Narcotics Eradication and Interdiction, 19 May 2005

- Labor Rights Advocates [co-counsel for plaintiffs]: Dyncorp - Case Summary

- US Dept of State, Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs: Aerial Eradication of Illicit Coca in Colombia [links to annual State Dept reports on this subject]

 

US District Court for District of Columbia, Arias v. DynCorp
- [PDF] Memorandum Opinion re disclosure of documents, 24 Apr 2012
- [PDF] Memorandum Opinion and Order, 21 May 2007

- [PDF] Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, 7 Jan 2002

- [DOC] Class Action Complaint, 11 Sep 2001

- [PDF] Earthrights International amicus brief, 9 Mar 2002

 

The aerial spraying of fumigants has also resulted in a diplomatic dispute between the Governments of Ecuador and Colombia.

- [PDF] Aerial spraying knows no borders: Ecuador brings international case over aerial spraying, Transnational Institute, Drug Policy Briefing, Sep 2005

- Organization of American States: At OAS, Ecuador Presents Complaint About Colombia’s Aerial Spraying of Herbicides Along Border, 9 Jan 2007

- Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense: Plan Colombia: Legal Violations and Court Cases, [links to decisions regarding domestic Colombian and Ecuadorian legal challenges to the aerial spraying under Plan Colombia]

Article
+ Español - Hide

Author: Ricardo Martínez Martínez, ContraPunto (El Salvador)

Según organizaciones civiles de los derechos humanos y ambientalistas colombianas, peruanas y mexicanas, las corporaciones militares de origen estadunidense, inglés e israelí mantienen filiales y subsidiarias…dedicadas a promover…actividades de seguridad, entrenamiento, apoyo logístico, formación de combate y venta de armas ligeras y pesadas...[por empresas] como SY Coleman Corporation, Risk Incorporated, Dyncorp, XeServices (antes Black Water), Global CST…[La] Comisión de Fiscalización del Congreso de Perú dio a conocer la investigación sobre tres exministros…implicados en contratos secretos con la firma israelí Global CST…y…[que] están implicados otros veinte exfuncionarios civiles y militares…de la red de gestores y consultores…que luego de varios años de investigaciones…sale por fin a la luz la trama de las “empresas privadas de la muerte”. [Se refiere a Alfacom, Security and Intelligence Advising]

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