The Queensland Government could be facing a possible class action in the wake of a landmark court ruling involving Johne’s Disease this morning.
Queensland Chief Justice Tim Carmody has ruled that it was illegal for the Queensland Government to continue to impose quarantine restrictions upon Vanrook and Inkerman Stations under Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) regulations, after it was confirmed in May 2013 that cattle on the station were not infected with the cattle strain of Johne’s Disease but the bison strain.
Legal counsel for the station’s owner, Mark Menegazzo, had argued that the national laws and rules governing the management of BJD refer only to the cattle strain of the disease, and not the bison strain, and as a result it was unlawful to impose quarantine upon the stations under existing BJD policy.
This morning’s result means that Vanrook and Inkerman Stations will now be able to be released from quarantine restrictions imposed since November 2012 and will be able to move stock that need to be agisted before the imminent wet season.
Chief Justice Carmody’s finding in Mr Menegazzo’s favour also appears to open the door for many other affected properties to challenge the legal status of quarantine restrictions imposed in Queensland in the past two years.
Hundreds of properties have been placed into quarantine under trace-forward programs following detections of Johne’s Disease at Rockley, Sarina and Hollins Bay. In each of those cases the strain has been confirmed to be the bison strain of Johne’s Disease, not the cattle strain or BJD.
BJD Action Group Spokesman John Gunthorpe told Beef Central following this morning’s verdict that a class action was now likely.
“All of those people that have been impacted from the three cases where bison strain was the foundation of the quarantine (Rockley, Sarina and Hollins Bay) will now be able to join in on a class action to recover all of the costs that they have incurred, due to the impacting of the quarantine which now by deduction are all illegal,” Mr Gunthorpe said.
A class action in the vicinity of $100 million was possible, Mr Gunthorpe believed, based on the losses affected producers have endured under the long-running and high impact quarantine program.
“As soon as they found it was bison strain under the stock regulations they should have immediately stopped quarantining, and they should have released everyone from quarantine,” he said.
“All of the people who were put into quarantine because of this have now got the opportunity to seek full and proper compensation for the cost associated with the quarantine actions that were undertaken.”
Whether the Queensland Government will appeal remains to be seen.
The decision was made by the State’s chief justice who made the ruling as a single judge.
Comments in reaction to today’s decision have been sought from the Queensland Government and cattle industry groups. More stories will follow on Beef Central.