UK Legal Claims are Dismissed

UK - The seven remaining farmers' claims in the NFU-backed FMD legal case have been dismissed today. Judgment was handed down today after the hearing that took place in the High Court in February.
calendar icon 1 April 2009
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The claims were brought by livestock farmers claiming damages following the 2007 foot and mouth disease outbreak.

The hearing, which took place on February 23-25, concerned applications that had been made by the defendants in the case, the Institute for Animal Health, Merial Animal Health Limited and Defra (via the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), to have the claims either struck out, or for judgment to be given in their favour at this early stage in the proceedings.

The applications made by IAH, Merial and Defra had been vigorously contested by the livestock farmers bringing the claims.

During the hearing of the applications in February, Richard Lissack QC, leading the case for the farmers, said that the farmers "suffered significant loss and damage to their livestock and farms as a result of this outbreak". Tim Lord QC, also representing the farmers, referred to concerns about the drains and biosecurity measures at the Pirbright facility, long before the FMD outbreak in 2007, and to the losses that the farmers had suffered as a result of the outbreak. He said "It is nothing short of scandalous that there should be these losses as a result and that they should go uncompensated."

However, in the judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Tugendhat found that the farmers have no real prospect of succeeding on any of their claims. For that reason, Mr Justice Tugendhat has dismissed the farmers' claims.

Commenting on the case NFU President Peter Kendall said: "Today's judgment is a massive disappointment to livestock farmers.

"The impacts of the FMD outbreak in 2007 were crippling for many farming businesses. What is clear is that if there had been proper biosecurity and containment measures in place at Pirbright, the outbreak wouldn't have happened.

"The NFU is pleased that seven of the claims have been settled, and without the backing of the NFU and the LAS, these claims might never have been brought. But the seven remaining claims continued, and this case was about getting redress for all those farmers whose businesses were affected by the outbreak, and holding to account those who were responsible.

"I am confident that the farmers bringing these claims put the best possible case forward, so we are very disappointed with the outcome.

"The NFU will now be considering the judgment carefully."

The case has been backed by the NFU and its Legal Assistance Scheme. The solicitors instructed by the claimants are Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons, one of the NFU's panel firms. The claimants are also represented by Richard Lissack QC, Tim Lord QC and Maya Lester.

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