Canadian B.S.E. class-action proceeding to trial

by Bryan Salvage
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TORONTO – Judge Janet Wilson’s Jan. 22 decision of the Ontario Divisional Court denying leave to the federal government to appeal the certification of a national B.S.E. class action has cleared the way for a trial.

"We are waiting for the Department of Justice to file a defense," said Cameron Pallett, lead counsel in the lawsuit, on Feb. 10. "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 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 B.S.E. was reported in Alberta in May, 2003. It was certified in Ontario on Sept. 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.

"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 said.

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