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Arias v. DynCorp

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

May 30, 2014

VENANCIO AGUASANTA ARIAS, HUSBAND, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF, AS GUARDIAN OF HIS FOUR MINOR CHILDREN, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, ET AL., APPELLANTS
v.
DYNCORP, ET AL., APPELLEES

Argued: April 14, 2014.

Page 1012

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:01-cv-01908), (No. 1:07-cv-01042).

Christian Levesque argued the cause for appellants. With her on the briefs were Terrence Collingsworth and Eric Hager.

Eric G. Lasker argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief were Joe G. Hollingsworth and Rosemary Stewart.

Before: TATEL, Circuit Judge, and SILBERMAN and SENTELLE, Senior Circuit Judges. Opinion for the Court filed by Senior Circuit Judge SILBERMAN.

OPINION

Page 1013

Silberman, Senior Circuit Judge

Appellants, a group of Ecuadorian provinces and individual farmers, alleged that they were injured by an anti-drug herbicide spraying operation in Colombia, conducted by an American company. In a series of rulings, the district judge dismissed all claims. Some of those are appealed. We affirm all but one.

I.

Since the late 1990s, the United States and Colombia have cooperated in a program known as " Plan Colombia," which encompasses a range of policies designed to combat Colombian drug cartels. That includes aerial herbicide spraying targeting illegal coca crops. Defendant DynCorp, an American contractor, conducted these spraying operations using an herbicide called glyphosate.

On September 11, 2001, plaintiffs filed a putative class action on behalf of all Ecuadorians who lived within ten miles of the Colombian border. They alleged that herbicide had drifted across the border from Colombia and that the planes themselves had actually crossed the border and sprayed in Ecuador. The plaintiffs invoked the district court's diversity jurisdiction and asserted a wide variety of tort claims for alleged injuries to health, property, and financial interests, relying on both Ecuadorian and District of Columbia law. All parties apparently agree now, however, that D.C. substantive law governs. For reasons that are not entirely clear to us, the case proceeded at a glacial pace.

Page 1014

In 2006 and 2007, additional cases were filed in the Southern District of Florida, on behalf of other individual plaintiffs, as well as three Ecuadorian provinces. Those cases were transferred to our district court, where they were consolidated with the original suit. The initial plaintiffs ...


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