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]

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

1 October 2013

[PDF] Privatization of the War on Drugs in Mexico and Colombia: Limiting the Application of Humanitarian Law and Endangering Human Rights

Author: Antoine Perret, European University Institute (Italy)

The use of Private Military and Security Companies…in the so-called War on Drugs has considerable implications for the application of international humanitarian law and raises concern about the respect for human rights under antidrug assistance programs. [The] lack of state control over PMSC activities poses a major challenge for human rights protections in the short-term…Every year, more…[PMSCs] are contracted…to provide intelligence, logistical support, and training and/or support to local armed forces…The concern over human rights violations is particularly acute in Colombia because all U.S. personnel (including contractors) working…[there] have been granted immunity from Colombian jurisdiction…The situation in Mexico demonstrates some significant parallels with Colombia, as well as some important differences. As in Colombia, a substantial proportion of PMSC activity…takes place through an antidrug trafficking agreement…under which several PMSCs have been hired to train local forces…In theory U.S. PMSCs should not participate in hostilities…[but an] example of a U.S. PMSCs’ de facto participation in the conflict, despite a de jure prohibition…is shown by the activities of DynCorp…

Read the full post here

9 September 2013

[PDF] Business & human rights in Latin America & the Caribbean – A round-up of recent developments

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

This briefing highlights reports from a range of sources about how businesses have impacted human rights, positively and negatively, in Latin America & the Caribbean over the past two years. The briefing refers to most countries in Latin America. Amanda Romero, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s Latin America & the Caribbean Researcher based in Colombia and Julia Neiva, Brazil and Portuguese-speaking countries Researcher and Representative based in Brazil, provide our coverage of these countries. This is not a comprehensive overview. It flags some major issues, cases, developments and trends. For more details see our website, with sections on over 190 countries, more than 5000 companies, and 150 issues.

Read the full post here

+ Español - Hide

Author: Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos

Este informe destaca los reportes de un variado rango de fuentes sobre los impactos (negativos y positivos) de las empresas sobre los derechos humanos en América Latina y el Caribe, en los dos últimos años. El informe hace referencia a la mayoría de países de América Latina. Amanda Romero, investigadora y representante para América Latina y el Caribe, con sede en Colombia, y Julia Neiva, investigadora y representante para Brasil y los países de habla portuguesa, con sede en Brasil, del Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos, hacen un cubrimiento de estos países. El presente informe no es exhaustivo, pero sí destaca algunos de los asuntos, casos, iniciativas y tendencias más importantes. Para mayores detalles, visite nuestro sitio web, en donde encontrará información sobre más de 190 países, más de 5.000 empresas, y 150 temas.

Read the full post here

+ Español - Hide

Author: FORCCOFES (Federación de Organizaciones Campesinas del Cordón Fronterizo Ecuatoriano de Sucumbíos), Clínica Ambiental, Acción Ecológica, Colectivo ProDH, CEDHU y FIAN Ecuador

…[El] Comité Interinstitucional contra las Fumigaciones…nos hemos convocado…para solicitarle…que no se minimice el impacto en la frontera…porque la demanda presentada por su gobierno ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya…planteaba 3 reclamos: 1) Que la Corte Declare que Colombia por sus aspersiones aéreas había violado la [soberanía] del Ecuador y los principios del Derecho Internacional…2) Que la Corte ordene a Colombia que termine de manera inmediata y definitivamente todas las aspersiones aéreas dentro de los 10 km de su frontera con Ecuador…[por]que la erradicación aérea afecta a la población, en su salud física y psicológica y en su economía de cultivos lícitos, así como a los ecosistemas…[y porque] estudios de instituciones estadounidenses…revelaron…irregularidades cometidas en los vuelos operados por…Dyncorp…3) Que la Corte ordene a Colombia Reparar al Ecuador por los daños causados a la población y al ambiente.

Read the full post here

8 June 2013

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin – Issue 9, June 2013

Author: Compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Welcome to the 9th issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. To assist all those following corporate legal accountability issues, we send this bulletin to highlight key developments, new cases profiled on our site, updates to existing profiles, and other news. Our Corporate Legal Accountability Portal is an online information hub providing resources for non-lawyers as well as lawyers – including victims, advocates, NGOs, businesspeople, lawyers bringing lawsuits against companies and lawyers defending companies. The portal provides impartial, concise information about lawsuits against companies in which human rights abuses are alleged – its aim is to demystify these lawsuits. Each case profile includes materials from both the plaintiffs and defendants, to the extent they are available.[Refers to adidas, Agua Mineral Chusmiza, Alstom, Areva, BASF, BP, CACI, Chevron, Chiquita, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, HudBay Minerals, Monterrico Metals (part of Zijin), Rio Tinto, Shell, Tate & Lyle, Texaco (part of Chevron), Titan (now L-3), Vedanta Resources, Veolia Transport (part of Veolia Environnement)]

Read the full post here

14 May 2013

[video] Dyncorp’s ‘strategic’ defense in drug crop spraying suit [Colombia & Ecuador]

Author: Bloomberg Law

Eric Lasker, partner at Hollingsworth...talks with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck about successfully defending DynCorp International...in U.S. federal court litigation with several thousand Ecuadorian citizens over claims of widespread environmental damages and alleged exposure to toxins through an aerial herbicide spraying operation and anti-narcotics effort known as “Plan Colombia.” [refers to Chevron, Texaco]

Read the full post here

30 April 2013

[PDF] Private military & security companies & their impacts on human rights - Bulletin Issue 4

Author: Compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Welcome to our fourth PMSC Bulletin. To assist those interested in private military & security companies (PMSCs) and their impacts on human rights, we publish this bulletin semi-annually to highlight key developments reported by NGOs, governments, journalists and others including PMSCs themselves. Previous bulletins are available here. We also invite you to consult our website and Business, Conflict & Peace Portal, which provide more resources and information about PMSCs. If you would like us to consider including something in the next bulletin, know someone who would like to receive the bulletin, or wish to unsubscribe, please contact Irene Pietropaoli: pietropaoli(at)business-humanrights.org [Refers to Academi (formerly Blackwater), Aegis Defence Services, Amazon.com, BAE Systems, Blue Mountain, CACI, DynCorp, Engility (formerly part of L-3 Communications), G4S, General Dynamics, ISS, Lockheed Martin, Nestlé, Saracen Intl., Securitas, Sterling Corporate Services]

Read the full post here

6 March 2013

DynCorp Dodges Ecuadoreans' Chemical-Exposure Suit [USA] [subscription only]

Author: Gavin Broady, Law360 [USA]

Government contractor DynCorp International Inc. has escaped a suit over injuries purportedly caused by anti-narcotic herbicides sprayed at the Colombia-Ecuador border, after a Washington, D.C., judge determined the plaintiffs could not establish causation, according to an opinion unsealed Tuesday. Judge Richard W. Roberts determined that the plaintiffs — approximately 2,000 Ecuadoreans bringing negligence and tort claims for acute and chronic injuries related to herbicide exposure — failed to establish the reliability of key expert witness Dr. Michael Wolfson…

Read the full post here

5 March 2013

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

Author: Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, for Global Research

The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations recruiting former militaries as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security. However, these individuals cannot be considered as civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive/defensive to an active/offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law either, since they are not part of the army or in the chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities. PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies. Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. [refers to Blackwater, Xe, Unity Resources Group, CACI, L-3 Titan (part of L-3 Communications), Jeppesen (part of Boeing), DynCorp, Meteoric Tactical Solutions, Steele Foundation, Triple Canopy, BAE Systems, United Defence Industries, Lockheed Martin, Lazard Frères, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, BP, Shell, MPRI)

Read the full post here

29 October 2012

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin - Issue 7

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[Full text of October 2012 issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. Refers to lawsuits against adidas, Amesys (part of Bull), Anadarko, Anglo Platinum (part of Anglo American), Areva, Blackwater, BP, CACI, Cameron International, Chevron, Copper Mesa Mining, Curacao Drydock, DynCorp, Esmor Correctional Services (part of Correctional Services Corporation), Ford, Global Horizons, Halliburton, L-3, PA Child Care, Paladin, Shell, SNCF, Texaco (part of Chevron), Transocean.]

Read the full post here