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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Insurer May Bring Home the Bacon on Dead Pigs

CHICAGO (CN) - A transport company may be held liable after 980 pigs boarded a flight to China, but only 800 made it there alive, a federal judge ruled.

Ag World International Corp. hired Interocean to transport the pigs from Illinois to China.

Interocean then subcontracted the job to China Southern Airlines Company, and provided the airline with a declaration of indemnity, agreeing "not to hold liable [Southern], their agents and employees for possible death, injury or illness which may occur to the [pigs] during the flight."

For unknown reasons, 180 pigs died on the flight.

Ag World's insurer, Catlin Insurance Co., sued Interocean and China Southern for breach of contract and breach of the Montreal Convention.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman refused to dismiss the case Friday.

"Plaintiff alleges that Interocean breached its contract with Ag World by giving Southern the Declaration of Indemnity, which purports to relieve Southern of all liability to Ag World, without Ag World's knowledge or consent," Guzman wrote. "That claim is consistent with the convention, which makes Interocean and Southern liable for cargo damage that occurs during 'the carriage ... [they] perform[]' and renders 'null and void' any contract provision 'tending to relieve [them] of liability.' As a result, the convention does not preempt the contract claim, but its provisions can be asserted as affirmative defenses to 'ensure that [defendants] are only subject to liability as allowed by the convention.'"

The Earth Policy Institute reported last year that pork is the most common meat in China, accounting for three-fourths of the country's enormous meat consumption. China overtook the United States as the world's leading meat consumer in 1992, and data shows that its annual meat consumption of 71 million tons is more than double that in the United States, the institute said.

This week, the Chinese government said it found 3,300 dead pigs in the Huangpu river, which supplies water to Shanghai. The total of dead pigs found in the river now exceeds 13,000, but the Chinese government has not found the source of the pigs.

The pigs' cause of death remains unknown.

Half of the world's pig population - some 476 million pigs - live in China, according to the report from Earth Policy Institute.

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