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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

+ Español - Hide

Author: RTU [Ecuador]

La empresa estadounidense Dyncorp [parte de Computer Sciences], contratada por Colombia para realizar las fumigaciones aéreas de cultivos de coca en zonas fronterizas con Ecuador, enfrenta tres demandas ecuatorianas en Estados Unidos por supuestos daños en la frontera...[E]l Gobierno de la provincia ecuatoriana de Sucumbíos alega que las fumigaciones han generado un desplazamiento de campesinos hacia la ciudad de Nueva Loja...[Se conoció también que puede haber alguna responsabilidad legal de la compañía estadounidense Monsanto, fabricante del glifosato.]

🚫Read the full post here

30 November 2004

[PDF] The Changing Landscape of Liability - A Director’s Guide to Trends in Corporate Environmental, Social and Economic Liability

Author: SustainAbility

[refers to Phillip Morris (part of Altria), McDonald's, Nestlé, Nike, Unocal, Ford, Shell, Monsanto, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical), Talisman, Walt Disney, Swiss Re, General Motors, General Electric, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Chevron (part of ChevronTexaco), Gap, Southern Peru Copper (joint venture Grupo México, Cerro Trading, Phelps Dodge), Coca-Cola, Rio Tinto, Freeport McMoRan, Del Monte (Fresh Del Monte Produce), Dyncorp (part of Computer Sciences), Barclays, Cape plc, Mitsubishi, Total, Burger King, KFC (part of YUM!), Kraft Foods (part of Altria), PepsiCo]

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30 June 2004

[PDF] full report: "In Our Court: ATCA, Sosa and the Triumph of Human Rights"

Author: EarthRights International

This report seeks to summarize the history, jurisprudence and politics of ATCA in order to explain how this relatively obscure law became a lightning rod in the world of business and human rights...[refers to Unocal, Chevron (part of ChevronTexaco), ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoRan, Shell, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Total, Halliburton, Talisman, United Technologies, Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), Coca-Cola, Tidewater, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Southern Peru Copper (joint venture Grupo México, Cerro Trading, Phelps Dodge), Newmont, DynCorp (part of Computer Sciences), Ford, Union Carbide (part of Dow), Citigroup, UBS, Credit Suisse, Barclays, IBM, General Motors, Westinghouse, Bank of America, Rio Tinto, Pfizer, DaimlerChrysler, Occidental Petroleum, Drummond, Titan, CACI, Eastman Kodak, Paribas (part of BNP Paribas)]

Read the full post here

8 March 2004

Recent ATCA Cases Against Corporate Defendants

Author: EarthRights International

[provides brief status report on human rights lawsuits in US courts under Alien Tort Claims Act against: ChevronTexaco, Coca-Cola, Drummond, Dyncorp, ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoran, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Gap, Rio Tinto, Shell, Southern Peru Copper, Texaco, Union Carbide, Unocal]

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+ Español - Hide

Author: El Comercio [Ecuador]

El juicio civil impulsado por campesinos de Ecuador contra la empresa Dyncorp, en EE.UU., tiene una nueva prueba de los efectos de la fumigación en la frontera [con Colombia]. Una investigación...señala que las fumigaciones con glifosato efectuadas como parte del Plan Colombia..."causaron daños genéticos en el 100 por ciento de mujeres estudiadas".

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15 June 2003

The Corporate Invasion of Iraq: Profile of U.S. Corporations Awarded Contracts in U.S./British-Occupied Iraq

Author: U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

The labour, human rights, environmental and social responsibility records of 18 U.S. companies with contracts in Iraq [Halliburton; Kellogg, Brown & Root; Bechtel; MCI WorldCom; Stevedoring Services of America; Abt Associates; Black & Veatch; Creative Associates; DynCorp/Computer Sciences Corp.; Fluor; Intl. Resource Group; Louis Berger Group; Menlo Worldwide Forwarding; Parsons Corp.; Perini Corp.; Research Triangle Institute; Skylink Air & Logistic Support; Washington Group Intl.]

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9 April 2003

DynCorp Rent-a-Cops May Head to Iraq

Author: Pratap Chatterjee, Corpwatch

A major military contractor -- already underfire for alleged human rights violations and fraud -- may get a multi-million dollar contract to police post-Saddam Iraq.

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26 June 2002

Corporate Human Rights [human rights lawsuits agains multinationals in U.S. courts]

Author: David Corn, The Nation

...For several years, a small group of lawyers and labor advocates has been trying to hold transnational companies responsible for their actions by suing them in the United States for abetting and/or benefiting from human rights abuses overseas. [refers to lawsuits against Unocal, Shell, Texaco, Rio Tinto, Coca-Cola, Fresh Del Monte Produce, DynCorp, Drummond Company, ExxonMobil]

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18 May 2002

Ecuador Border Tainted by U.S.-Made Coca Killer - Collateral Damage from Colombia's Drug War

Author: Reese Ehrlich, San Francisco Chronicle

In an attempt to kill coca leaf -- the raw material for cocaine -- Colombian planes are using a U.S.-manufactured herbicide near the border with Ecuador...But residents of San Francisco 2 want the spraying stopped. In February, they filed a class action lawsuit for unspecified damages in Washington against the Dyn Corp., a Virginia firm responsible for the spraying.

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1 December 2001

Recent ILRF [International Labor Rights Fund] Cases to Enforce Human Rights Under the ATCA

Author: Terry Collingsworth, Executive Director of International Labor Rights Fund, in ACLU International Civil Liberties Report 2001 [American Civil Liberties Union]

[includes reference to human rights-related cases in U.S. courts against Unocal, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Fresh Del Monte Produce, DynCorp]

Read the full post here