Court rules that airline must eat asparagus loss

Wea Farms v. American Airlines, Inc. (S.D. Fla. Apr. 18, 2007).  A Peruvian farmer delivered asparagus to American in Lima for shipment to Miami International Airport.  American did not notify the consignee of the asparagus’ arrival in Miami until more than 18 hours had elapsed.  During that time, the asparagus was exposed to the summer heat in Miami and not placed in any type of refrigerated storage.  Not surprisingly, the asparagus suffered severe heat damage and was a total loss.

The shipper sued American for the fair market value of the asparagus at the time it was delivered to the airline.  At the trial, American argued that it was absolved from liability under its tariffs and Article 18.2 of the Montreal Convention because the asparagus had been delivered to it by the shipper in “defective packaging.”

The court found that American or its cargo agent, not the shipper, had been responsible for the packaging.  The court also found that even the shipper had been responsible for the packaging, the proximate cause of the damage to the asparagus was American’s negligence in waiting over 18 hours to contact the consignee while the asparagus sat in the hot summer weather.  Accordingly, the court held American liable to the shipper for the fair market value of the asparagus at the time of delivery.

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