April 18, 2017

Law360, New York (April 18, 2017, 6:02 PM EDT) -- Defense contractor DynCorp., at trial over allegations that it poisoned farmers in Ecuador with herbicide while trying to eradicate drug crops in Colombia, should be hit with punitive damages because it acted with “an evil motive,” plaintiffs told a Washington, D.C., court Tuesday.

The plaintiffs, who represent a 2,000-person class of Ecuadoreans allegedly harmed by the chemicals, requested that the jury award punitive damages against DynCorp. based on a two-prong requirement they claim to have met: the defense contractor purportedly acted with “an evil motive, actual malice or willful disregard” for the plaintiffs, and DynCorp.’s management allegedly participated in or authorized the wrongful conduct. Regarding the first prong, the plaintiffs pointed to testimony from DynCorp. managers, including one who admitted he did not know if the fumigant was harmful to animals or humans.

“DynCorp did not know the precise chemical used in the herbicide it sprayed, never tested it on humans, but insisted that it was safe for humans when they sprayed it with substantial certainty or reckless disregard that it would hit the plaintiffs and their farms, showing malice or willful disregard for plaintiffs’ rights,” the plaintiffs said.

According to the plaintiffs, their evidence supports claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress “and/or battery.” Should the jury rule in their favor on battery or emotional distress, the plaintiffs contended that they have established the “requisite intent” for punitive damages.

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