Venancio Aguasanta Arias, et al. v. Dyncorp, et al., Civil
Action No. 01-1908 (D.D.C. 2012), denies a motion for
reconsideration of a discovery order in an international
litigation. The underlying case involves allegations relating to
"Plan Columbia", where the government allegedly hired
Dyncorp to assist "in illicit drug crop eradication by
spraying fumigants from airplanes onto cocaine and heroin poppy
plantations in Columbia". The claims in the case are by
plaintiffs who allegedly were harmed by the fumigant. The
plaintiffs are 3,200 citizens and residents of Ecuador, who brought
claims under the Federal Alien Tort Claims Act as well as under
various international and state common law torts.
Initially, the plaintiffs discovery demands for flight data was
denied as irrelevant. This the District Court rejected on the
ground that such data could "tend to corroborate or dispute
accounts from the pilots or accounts from the victims or accounts
from potential eyewitnesses about the spraying".
The motion for reconsideration argued that the District Court
erred in granting the discovery because, said the defendants, a
higher than normal standard should have been employed in testing
the discovery demands because the discovery may contain sensitive
data. The District Court was unwilling to find that it has
overlooked material fact or law in its earlier determination.
Here, though, the defendants also sought an interlocutory appeal
to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, since,
according to the defendants, the District Court's order
implicated "how courts should balance . . . national security
concerns against judicial rules of discovery". Hence,
interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. sec. 1292(b) was warranted.
The District Court rejected this contention as well. There is a
strong federal policy against piecemeal appeals "and against
obstructing or impeding an ongoing judicial proceeding by
interlocutory appeals". The defendants had not identified any
split in relevant authority or any controlling issue of law. The
motion for interlocutory appeal was denied.
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