600 claimants join class action

More than 600 people have joined a class action against the Commonwealth in the wake of equine influenza.  The outbreak devastated the racing and breeding industries in 2007.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers lodged legal proceedings that maintained officials acting on behalf of the federal government allowed the E.I. virus to escape the Eastern Creek quarantine station on the person, clothing or equipment of someone who had not undergone adequate, or any, cleaning or disinfection.

Maurice Blackburn partner Damian Scattini said the outbreak at the AQIS station was caused by negligence.  “People would go from wherever they were in their street clothes, visit a horse, and then leave without changing or showering, then go and see other horses,” he told AAP.  “So the inevitable happened.”

The amount of compensation to be sought is still uncertain but Scattini estimates it to be many times more than the $220 million in assistance provided by the federal government in 2007.  The case will be brought in the Federal Court in Sydney in February.

Wattle Brae Stud in Queensland was one of several tests cases in the ongoing dispute.  Studmaster Gary Turkington claims E.I. cost his business more than $3 million.

“Wattle Brae was quarantined for three months during the breeding season and all of our horses contracted the virus,” Turkington said.  “The incompetence of the government and the (Eastern Creek) quarantine station cost us a lot of money and a lot of clients.  They should be made liable.”

Wattle Brae sought damages for negligence, interest on damages and for legal costs.