Farmers appeal shattercane class action decision

Farmers appeal shattercane class action decision

An appeal has been launched into the long-running shattercane class action after the Queensland Supreme Court dismissed a compensation claim made by approximately 100 farmers from New South Wales and Queensland against seed company, Advanta Seeds.

The farmers launched the shattercane class action in 2017 with some claiming they had lost up to $2 million after planting sorghum seeds that were contaminated with seeds from the difficult to remove weed, shattercane.

In their claim, the farmers alleged “the contamination was due to the negligence of the defendant in producing the MR43”.

To read how planting the seeds stopped NSW Liverpool Plains farmer, Bernie Perkins, from growing sorghum ‘back to back’ please click here.

shattercane class action
Liverpool Plains farmer Bernie Perkins has now retired from farming but at the time of using the seeds was unable to grow back-to-back sorghum crops due to shattercane infestation. Credit: Fairfax Media

Justice David Jackson in the Queensland Supreme Court dismissed the farmers’ case on April 9.

But the farmers’ solicitor, Dan Creevey, the Principal at Creevey Russell Lawyers, has launched an appeal and believes there is hope as Justice Jackson was in favour of the farmers’ case in some respects.

“While disappointed for the farmers with the ultimate finding of the Court in the primary case, in terms of an appeal we were pleased that the Judge did in fact find in the farmers’ favour in a number of key respects, including with respect to the cause of the contamination, the fact that the farmers who gave evidence had suffered considerable economic loss as a result of the contamination, and that the farmers were not out of time to bring their claims,” Mr Creevey said.

“One of the key points for the appeal will be whether the primary Judge was correct in finding that the duty of care owed by Advanta to the farmers was negated by a disclaimer he found to have been on the bags of the Advanta seed purchased by the farmers in around 2010.”

Mr Creevey also commented on Justice Jackson’s criticism of the Managing Director of Advanta Seeds.

“Justice Jackson was critical of Advanta’s evidence given at the trial – particularly from the Managing Director at the time of the contamination, who was unwilling to state a likely cause for the contamination despite historical company documents and expert evidence giving a clear indication that it was due to a failure by Advanta to exercise a reasonable standard of care in rogueing the seed production crop in early 2010,” Mr Creevey said. 

“There is no doubt that these farmers have incurred significant losses as a result of the contamination, which have impacted them for many years following the initial planting of the seed in the 2010/11 season.  We remain optimistic as to our chances of successfully appealing the case and finally obtaining some deserved compensation for these farmers.”    

The appeal is also being financed by Balance Legal Capital.

“We were disappointed with the outcome of the trial, particularly for the approximately 100 farmers in NSW and Queensland that are part of the class action who we consider deserve compensation for the loss they suffered as a result of the seed contamination,” Balance Legal Capital Partner Simon Burnett said.

“We consider that the appeal filed on Friday has merit and will be continue to provide financial support to the farmers for the next stage of the proceedings.” 

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