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Marble Importer Files Nearly $6.2M Breach of Contract Suit Against Liberty Mutual for Destroyed Imports

Marble importer Stoneline Group filed suit in a New York federal court against Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. for breach of contract regarding an insurance policy covering a large shipment of tumbled beige marble stone from Turkey. Filing a complaint on Sept. 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Stoneline said Liberty owes it nearly $6.2 million for all the costs it incurred shipping the goods from Turkey to Florida, then re-exporting the products to the Dominican Republic after it found the shipment was contaminated with pests (Stoneline Group v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., S.D.N.Y. #23-08115).

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In 2022, Stoneline bought 4,183 crates of the marble stone for over $1.8 million from a Turkish company. Shortly before placing the order, the importer bought an all-risk marine policy from Liberty. The crates of marble were loaded on the M/V Canny Caroline in Turkey, after which the vessel operator issued a clean bill of lading. Following this, a port service fumigation service issued a certificate of fumigation certifying that the shipments were inspected and found to be free from "harmful matters residues."

Nevertheless, the goods arrived in Florida two months later and were found to be contaminated by "live pests" on the ship. The USDA inspected the vessel after it arrived in Florida and said the goods needed to be re-exported or destroyed. There were 155 crates of the marble, valued at over $100,000, that were infested and destroyed at the behest of Stoneline, the complaint said.

The remaining goods were sent to the Dominican Republic, whose government said it was willing to accept for discharge. The importer is not "reconditioning" the remaining crates. Stoneline submitted a claim with Liberty, alleging nearly $6.2 million in losses from the whole ordeal. The insurer refused to pay and later canceled its policy with the company.

Liberty is claiming that the policy had not attached to the shipment since the voyage left the warehouse in Turkey on a date before the effective date of the policy. Stoneline said in its complaint that the policy is clearly a "time policy" that starts and ends on a specific date "regardless of when a voyage begins or ends." Just because the cargo "might have left a warehouse in Turkey prior to the effective date of the Policy of August 15, 2022, is irrelevant because the cargo was acknowledged to be in good order and condition and free of pest by the ocean carrier by means of acceptance of the cargo aboard the vessel," the complaint said.