DynCorp Prevails as Court Dismisses Claims Brought by 3,200 Ecuadorian Plaintiffs

February 19, 2013

In two opinions issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Court dismissed claims brought by 3,200 individual Ecuadorian plaintiffs against DynCorp International for alleged crop, animal and human health damages and for medical monitoring in connection with counternarcotics aerial herbicide spraying operations in southern Colombia.  DynCorp was a contractor to the U.S. Department of State assisting with the joint United States-Colombia war-on-drugs initiatives known as “Plan Colombia.”

The opinions were each issued under seal.  In the February 19, 2013 opinion, the Court excluded the testimony of plaintiffs’ causation expert, Dr. Michael Wolfson, in support of plaintiffs’ personal injury and medical monitoring claims and granted summary judgment to DynCorp.  That ruling was made public on March 5, 2013 and referenced the Court’s earlier February 6, 2013 opinion regarding the plaintiffs’ property damages claim, which was still under seal.

On March 8, 2013, the Court made public its earlier February 6, 2013 ruling.  In the now-released earlier opinion, the Court held that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs had not supported their claims of crop and animal losses with necessary expert testimony.  The Court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument the plaintiffs were qualified to testify about alleged losses of their own crops and farm animals or could rely on other witnesses anecdotal accounts of similar damages, finding that expert testimony on both subjects was necessary to establish causation.  The Court found that the plaintiffs could testify with regard to specific causation on their own acute personal injury claims, but clarified that ruling in its subsequent February 19, 2013 opinion in which it held that those claims nonetheless could not survive without reliable expert testimony in support of general causation, which plaintiffs did not have.  The Court also held that plaintiffs could not support their claims of increased risk of cancer without reliable expert testimony, which, again, the Court held on February 19, 2013 plaintiffs did not have.

In earlier rulings in this same litigation, in 2010, DynCorp won the dismissal of the three Provinces of Ecuador that share a border with Colombia, which had also filed suit as plaintiffs against DynCorp for alleged environmental damage from the herbicide spraying, and also won the dismissal of claims brought by over 1,200 individual plaintiffs for failure to properly complete Plaintiffs’ Questionnaires.

Arias v. DynCorp, 928 F. Supp.2d 10 (D.D.C. 2013)