It's hard to get good antlers these days.
And even harder to win a lawsuit when good antlers go bad.
A federal appeals court panel in Richmond ruled yesterday that an Alaska company cannot be held liable in Virginia for 378 pounds of reindeer antlers that were ruined in transit to National Airport.
A Northern Virginia businessman, Choon Young Chung, claimed he was cheated when the antlers -- valued in the Orient for medicinal and reputed aphrodisiac purposes -- arrived leaking blood and emitting a "terrible" odor.
Chung sued in federal court in Alexandria and was awarded $8,207 in damages on the grounds that NANA Development Corp. of Anchorage had agreed that the antlers would be shipped frozen. But the appellate panel ruled the Alexandria court had no jurisdiction and suggested that Chung sue in Alaska.
"NANA appears to have done everything possible to confine its United States business to its home state of Alaska during this transaction, and never had any other dealings with Virginia whatsoever," Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson wrote for the majority. "It only shipped goods to Virginia on this isolated occasion for the convenience of Chung, who could not remain in Alaska to take delivery there as originally contemplated by the parties."
Originally, Chung was to pick up 500 pounds of reindeer antlers in Nome, Alaska, in a transaction valued at $17,500. But only 120 pounds were ready at the airport.
He paid at the time of sale by a $12,000 cashier's check and a $5,000 personal check but stopped payment on the latter when the antlers -- uninsured -- arrived spoiled.
NANA operates a 2 million-acre reindeer range in Alaska. Twice a year the reindeer are rounded up so their horns can be clipped. Because they contain blood, the horns -- which grow back the following year -- can spoil.
Judge Sam Ervin III dissented, saying NANA opened itself up to suit in the East when it "abandoned its usual policies and willingly shipped its products to Virginia."
Chung could not be reached for comment.