Trials & Litigation

Federal judge nixes big-game hunter's suit over airline's refusal to transport trophy rhinoceros

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A Texan who made the winning bid of $350,000 at a Dallas Safari Club auction for a permitted trip to kill an African rhinoceros wound up suing Delta Airlines last year for refusing to transport his dead trophy.

But a federal judge on Monday dismissed the suit filed by Corey Knowlton and safari clubs in Dallas and Houston, agreeing with Delta that it failed to state a viable cause of action, reports Courthouse News.

An article last year in the Scoop Blog of the Dallas Morning News gives more details about the complaint in the Dallas case. It alleged that Delta’s big-game trophy transport ban was an “unlawful embargo” that violated federal common law and the airline’s operating certificate, as well as tortiously interfered with business relations of the plaintiffs.

However, the judge agreed with Delta, which said in a dismissal motion brief that the tortious interference claim was preempted by federal law and no private right of action allows the plaintiffs’ federal statutory claims. The complaint focused on public policy arguments, rather than applicable law, Delta wrote.

In a response to Delta’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs argued that the trophy transport ban was discriminatory, another Scoop Blog article notes.

“Delta’s unlawful embargo harms the tourist hunter-conservationists plaintiffs represent,” the plaintiffs wrote in the responding brief. “They cannot ship lawfully acquired … trophies in the manner allowed by international law. Delta is treating them like traffickers and poachers, and that stigma is reducing their interest and ability to hunt in Africa. Worse, the wildlife authorities of range nations are losing essential revenue otherwise used for anti-poaching and wildlife management.”

A previous CNN article describes the hunt in Namibia by Knowlton. It targeted an older male whose death arguably benefited surviving black rhinos, an endangered species, by allowing younger animals to thrive.

Related coverage: “Rhino hunter and US clubs sue Delta Airlines over transport ban on big-game trophies”

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