Sanlu lawsuits (re tainted milk in China)

Sanlu milk China Credit: cnsphoto三鹿毒奶粉事件诉讼摘要 (中文版)

In September 2008, the Chinese dairy company Sanlu admitted publicly that it had knowingly sold milk products tainted with melamine worldwide (mostly in China).  The tainted milk caused serious health problems for over 300,000 children and caused the deaths of six children in China.

On 22 January 2009, the Shijazhuang Intermediate People’s Court (China) sentenced 21 employees of Sanlu (including Sanlu executives) for knowingly producing and adding melamine to milk products, in order to boost the milk’s protein count.  The court issued prison sentences ranging from 5 years to life imprisonment.  Although Sanlu had filed for bankruptcy in November 2008, the court fined the company over 50 million yuan (US$7.3 million).

From 2008 to 2009, a number of civil class-action lawsuits were filed in various Chinese regional courts.  However, no lawsuits were admitted by these courts. 

Eight parents, whose children were harmed by the melamine tainted milk, filed a writ against Fonterra Cooperative Group on 8 April 2010 at the Small Claims Tribunal in Hong Kong.  Fonterra is registered in Hong Kong.  The plaintiffs, mainland China residents, sought individual compensation ranging from HK$12,400 to HK$33,500.  The claim alleged that, as a major shareholder of Sanlu (owning 43%), Fonterra knew about the melamine-tainted milk, and Fonterra was vicariously liable for the illnesses of children who had consumed the milk.  Fonterra applied to dismiss the claim on the basis that Hong Kong was not the appropriate forum for the claim because the claimants were mainland China residents and the injuries also occurred in mainland China.  On 25 May 2010, the Hong Kong Small Claims Tribunal dismissed the claims on the basis that Fonterra was a minority shareholder and did not control the production process, and the tribunal also ruled that Hong Kong was not the correct venue for the claims.  On 6 August 2010 the tribunal held a review hearing and again rejected the lawsuit, on the same grounds.

- “Redress by relocation”, Economist, 3 Jun 2010
- "Bad milk bid turns sour – as judge rejects claims", Patsy Moy, Standard [Hong Kong], 28 May 2010
- "Hong Kong Lawsuit Field by Parents of Melamine Babies", Li Zhen, Epoch Times, 5 May 2010
- "Three on Trial over New Case of Tainted Milk Products", New Tang Dynasty Television, 1 Mar 2010
- "Chinese courts to accept milk scandal cases: report", Agence France Presse, 3 Mar 2009
- "Chinese dairy companies apologize for milk scandal by text message", Xinhua, 2 Jan 2009
- "Chinese Parents File Milk Lawsuit", Sky Canaves & Juliet Ye, Wall Street Journal, 1 Oct 2008

- Fonterra: "Fonterra Believes Hong Kong Claim Has No Foundation"
- Peng Jiang [counsel to claimants]: “An Explanation of the Lawsuit against Fonterra in Hong Kong”, in China Rights Forum, 26 Jan 2011
- An Ning: “The Tainted Milk Powder Incident – Hope in the Midst of Despair”, in China Rights Forum, 26 Jan 2011

-  Zhou et al. v. Fonterra Brands (China) Ltd., Small Claims Tribunal, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Claim Numbers 15980 – 15983 of 2010
- [PDF] Judgment – Reasons for Ruling, 27 May 2010

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Article
23 March 2012

China: the path to responsible business and sustainable growth

Author: Simon Zadek, Centre for Intl. Governance Innovation and Global Green Growth Institute, in Guardian [UK]

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Article
28 May 2010

Bad milk bid turns sour - as judge rejects claims [Hong Kong]

Author: Patsy Moy, Standard [Hong Kong]

A lawsuit seeking compensation for the parents of four children affected by tainted mainland milk powder two years ago has been thrown out…Small Claims Tribunal adjudicator Ada Yim Shun-yee said the evidence of liability…was mostly in the mainland and that the families had failed to demonstrate Hong Kong was an appropriate forum to pursue their claims.…Yim also said there was no evidence to show...Fonterra Brands…had control in the…management of the now defunct Sanlu Group…The parents believe [Hong Kong] SAR-based Fonterra Brands should be held responsible…based on the assumption that it held a 43 percent stake in Sanlu…

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Article
5 May 2010

Hong Kong Lawsuit Filed by Parents of Melamine Babies

Author: Li Zhen, Epoch Times

After unsuccessful appeals in China, eight parents of children sickened by melamine-tainted milk manufactured by China’s Sanlu Group went to Hong Kong where they filed the first case against Sanlu overseas. They filed a writ at the Small Claims Tribunal to seek compensation from the Fonterra Cooperative Group, Sanlu's second largest shareholder, which is registered in Hong Kong. According to [the plaintiffs’] attorney Peng…the Fonterra Group had known about the tainted milk as early as August 2008 and did not report it…until six weeks later. “Being the second largest shareholder…Fonterra had the obligation to inform consumers. I believe the company is liable for the tort of negligence,” Peng said...Fonterra's General Counsel David Matthews...stated that the tragedy happened in China and was compensated there...

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Article
1 March 2010

Three on Trial over New Case of Tainted Milk Products [China]

Author: New Tang Dynasty Television [USA]

...[T]hree employees of Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. went on trial...accused of making milk flavoring with melamine-tainted condensed milk...In 2008 more than 300,000 children fell ill and at least six died from ingesting the melamine-tainted milk products...Most of it was produced by the now-bankrupt Sanlu group…

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Article
24 November 2009

China executes two over tainted milk powder scandal

Author: Tania Branigan, Guardian [UK]

China executed a dairy farmer and a milk salesman today for their role in a tainted infant formula scandal in which at least six children died and 300,000 were made ill...Nineteen others have been jailed since January in connection with the case, which involved deliberately contaminating milk with melamine...Sanlu, the company at the heart of the scandal, knew that its milk was making babies ill...but it did not inform officials...Zhang Yujun, a farmer, was executed for endangering public safety and Geng Jinping for producing and selling toxic food...parents have suggested the men were merely scapegoats...blam[ing] Sanlu's general manager, Tian Wenhua…200 families are calling for more compensation, saying the deal organised by the government - 1.1bn yuan (£97m) from 22 companies…is inadequate.

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Article
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Author: AFP

Deux personnes ont été exécutées mardi en Chine, dix mois après le procès du lait contaminé à la mélamine qui avait provoqué la mort de six enfants et rendu malade 300.000 autres l'an dernier... Au total, 22 entreprises avaient mis sur le marché des produits frelatés avec de la mélamine, substance destinée aux colles, aux résines ou aux engrais qui simule, lors des tests de contrôle, un apport en protéines. [fait référence à Sanlu]

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Article
3 March 2009

Chinese courts to accept milk-scandal cases: report

Author: Agence France Presse

Chinese courts are now ready to accept lawsuits by families of children sickened in last year's tainted milk scandal...A court in eastern China's Shandong province has accepted legal documents from 54 families whose infants developed urinary illnesses from baby milk powder made by Syrutra International...[also refers to Sanlu]

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Author: Pascale Nivelle, Libération [France]

Les têtes tombent dans le scandale du lait frelaté en Chine. Hier, trois hommes ont été condamnés à mort, dont un avec sursis, par le tribunal de Shijiazhuang, où se trouve le siège de la compagnie laitière Sanlu dans le Hebei. L’ex-directrice de la société, principale productrice de lait contaminé parmi les 22 incriminées, a été condamnée à la prison à vie... Les parents des petites victimes, près de 300 000 dont six sont mortes, selon les chiffres officiels, attendaient... 213 familles, dont les plaintes n’ont jamais été enregistrées par les tribunaux, ont saisi le 16 janvier la Cour suprême de Pékin.

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Article
22 January 2009

Chinese milk scam duo face death

Author: BBC News

Two men have been given the death penalty for their involvement in China's contaminated milk scandal. The former boss of the Sanlu dairy at the centre of the scandal was given life imprisonment…The scandal, in which melamine was added to raw milk to make it appear higher in protein, led to the deaths of six babies and made some 300,000 ill….Sanlu itself [although bankrupt] was fined 50m yuan ($7.3m)…One other person received a suspended death sentence, two were jailed for life and six…were jailed for between five and 15 years…All together, 22 companies sold contaminated milk…Major dairy companies bought the milk from such dealers, failing to test the milk for purity and nutritional value…

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Article
31 December 2008

China milk scandal 'guilty' plea

Author: BBC News

An executive for the dairy firm at the centre of China's tainted milk scandal has pleaded guilty to charges that may incur the death penalty, reports say. Tian Wenhua, former head of Sanlu, and three other executives are accused of producing and selling defective goods. State media said the trial into the poisonings, which left at least six children dead and nearly 300,000 ill, ended with no immediate verdict. Earlier, lawyers for Ms Tian told AFP news agency she had not entered a plea…It is not known when the verdicts will be announced.

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