BSE class action will proceed to trial



    TORONTO, Feb. 10 /CNW/ - The January 22 decision by Madam Justice Janet
Wilson of the Ontario Divisional Court denying leave to the federal government
to appeal the certification of a national BSE class action has cleared the way
for a trial.
    "We are waiting for the Department of Justice to file a defence," said
Cameron Pallett, lead counsel in the law suit, today. "I am confident the
government will be prompt, now that the appeals process is exhausted."
    Mr. Pallett noted that in her decision Justice Wilson wrote that, "There
has already been a delay of three years due to procedural challenges. It is in
the interests of justice that this case proceed."
    The action, which seeks compensation for the up to 135,000 farm families
hit hard by international border closings to Canadian cattle and beef after
the first case of BSE was reported in Alberta in May, 2003, was certified in
Ontario on September 3, 2008 by Madam Justice Joan Lax of the Ontario Superior
Court of Justice.
    Statements of claim were filed in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and
Alberta in April 2005. Certification by the Ontario court creates a national
class action in the common law provinces of Canada. A coordinated action on
behalf of the cattle farmers of Québec was authorized as a class action in
June of 2007.
    The action names as defendants the federal department of agriculture,
unnamed officials of the department, and a cattle-feed manufacturer, Ridley
Inc. On January 30, Ridley finalized a settlement agreement by paying C$ 6
million dollars into the BSE Class Action Fund to be used to fund the ongoing
litigation. Ridley is still a defendant, but its liability is capped.
    On January 26, an allegation of misfeasance in public office by a public
servant in the department of agriculture was added to the statement of claim.
    "It will be our contention at trial that the individuals involved were
grossly negligent in their responsibilities; Canadian beef and dairy cattle
producers trusted and relied on them, and they failed the producers."
    Mr. Pallett declined to speculate on the amount that damages would be, if
the law suit is successful. "What is immediately important is a process to
move things along in a timely manner; the plaintiffs prefer the government to
engage in settlement negotiations, rather than force a lengthy trial process,"
he said.
    "This action is about the families whose lives were blighted by the
crisis - a crisis we allege occurred because the Department of Agriculture did
certain things, and neglected to do other things, knowing at the time that if
it had adopted a different course of action, this crisis would never have
occurred."
    "Experts are now reporting that beef and dairy operations continue to be
affected; many families will never recover. The harm caused by the BSE crisis
is measured in farms lost, careers destroyed and opportunities pre-empted,"
said Mr. Pallett. "Failure to do the right thing at the right time caused the
BSE crisis. It is time for the government to take a good hard look at how they
can help Canadian cattle farmers."
    For further information on the BSE Class Action, go to the website at
www.bseclassaction.ca.





For further information:

For further information: Cameron Pallett, (416) 923-1776 ext 225,
cpallett@leggeandlegge.com, BSE Class Action Plaintiff's Counsel

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