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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (June 21, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---A Chuuk Islander's lawsuit against fishing company Ting Hong is brewing into an international legal battle in the Marshall Islands High Court. At issue is whether one branch of this Taiwan-based multinational fishing corporation is liable to pay a court-ordered fine from another island group.

Kerio Fabian, a citizen of Chuuk state in the Federated States of Micronesia, recently filed suit in the Marshall Islands High Court attempting to get the court's help in collecting an $18,000 Federated States of Micronesia court ruling against Ting Hong's Chuuk state operation. He previously worked for it and suffered a job-related accident that resulted in part of his foot being amputated.

Although the FSM court awarded Fabian damages in 1997, Ting Hong's Chuuk company did not pay and the amount now due has risen to more than $24,000, according to Fabian's Majuro attorney Dennis Reeder.

Ting Hong also operates a fishing operation in the Marshall Islands.

The Marshall Islands High Court responded by putting a freeze on all assets of Ting Hong's Marshall Islands corporation until the matter could be heard in court.

But Ting Hong Marshall Islands attorney David Strauss filed a motion to dismiss Fabian's claim on the ground that the Marshall-based Ting Hong has never done business in the Federated States of Micronesia. It is a completely different entity than the FSM Ting Hong corporation, he said.

Strauss said a person couldn't make a judgment against company "A" and then try and enforce it against company "B". As an example, he said a corporation named Mobil Oil (Micronesia) would not be liable to pay a judgment against Mobil Oil (North America).

But Fabian's attorney, responding to Strauss' motion to dismiss, told the court that it has the power to reject Strauss' theory. The High Court has the option of "piercing the corporate veil," Reeder said, adding that the "corporate fiction of separate existence" doesn't have to be recognized by the courts.

Reeder said both the FSM and Marshal Islands Ting Hong operations "are part and parcel of a single economic enterprise." He said Ting Hong has or had fishing operations located in Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae and the Marshall Islands -- all islands associated with the United States that are located north of the equator.

He said that Kai-Nan Wu, who signed an agreement for Ting Hong operations in the FSM with the FSM government's Micronesian Maritime Authority, is named as a director of the Marshall Islands company.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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