National class actions law firm Maurice Blackburn will today file a class action against the Commonwealth Government on behalf of over 550 clients for losses arising from the 2007 Equine Influenza (EI) outbreak.
The class action, which is being filed in the Federal Court in Sydney, will allege that the Commonwealth negligently caused the EI outbreak that devastated the horse and racing industries after the virus escaped from Eastern Creek Quarantine Station and spread across eastern Australia.
The outbreak - which lasted from August 2007 until January 2008 - resulted in hundreds of people suffering significant financial loss, with many still struggling to recover as a result. Clients signed on to the class action include racehorse owners, horse breeders, horse racing clubs, equestrian clubs, horse transporters, jockeys and trainers.
Maurice Blackburn Class Actions Principal Damian Scattini said it was well known that the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) had failed to ensure appropriate quarantine and biosecurity measures were in place to protect the horse and racing industry.
"The failings of AQIS are well known, something confirmed by the Callinan Inquiry in 2008, which found there were systemic failures across Australia's quarantine systems," Mr Scattini said.
"While some of these issues have been addressed, the fact remains that there are still many hundreds of people struggling to recover from the financial loss they suffered in 2007.
"Those people deserve to be compensated for what happened to them - many lost livelihoods, farms and businesses they had worked their entire lives to build and have had to start again from scratch at a huge cost," he said.
Equine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness among horses. Prior to the outbreak occurring in 2007, Australia had been free of the disease, and the horse population was not vaccinated against it. The release of the virus from the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station caused it to spread rapidly across horse populations in Eastern Australia.
The outbreak occurred during the breeding season, in the lead-up to the Spring Racing Carnival. As a result of the outbreak, people lost horses to the disease, the movement of horses was heavily restricted, crippling many businesses and industries, and the disease also impacted heavily on breeding programs.
The class action is being funded by litigation funder Argentum, with an application for co-funding by Claims Funding Australia.
EI class action background
Click here to view a video featuring one of the lead applicants Robin Hosking, from East Maitland owner of the champion horse "Lively Exit" who died after contracting EI in 2007.