IN a case which could be a key test of the legal responsibility of shipping companies to police the contents of delivered cargo, the United States District Judge Charles Breyer last week denied a motion by FedEx Corp to dismiss charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances arising from the company's alleged role in transporting illegal prescription drugs.
The shipping giant argued that the company is legally protected from such charges as a "common carrier," a transportation company paid to take cargo regardless of its contents.
But Judge Breyer said the common carrier exemption does not apply to the charges levied against FedEx in this case, namely a conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs.
If such actions were considered legal under the common carrier exemption, the judge argued, there would be nothing to stop an individual from becoming a common carrier with the intention of distributing illegal drugs and avoid prosecution.
In a statement, the company said it accepted the court's ruling, but said it will continue to defend itself.
The company pleaded not guilty when the Justice Department filed its original indictment in July, which alleges FedEx ignored warnings from the government it could face legal action for delivering drugs ordered from online pharmacies, the American Shipper reported.
If convicted, FedEx would face a maximum fine of US$1.6 billion or twice the revenues allegedly made from engaging in the illegal activities, according to the US attorney's office.
FedEx has previously disputed the fine amount, saying its revenues stemming from pharmacy shipments were far less than $820 million.
In its motion to dismiss, the express delivery firm argued it can't reasonably be expected to inspect each of its over 10 million daily shipments for illegal items and that the common carrier exception is intended to protect transportation companies from legal responsibility for such actions.
Source : HKSG.