Fourteen farmers have brought a compensation claim worth £1.5 million against two government-run laboratories which they blame for last year’s outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The laboratories are accused of negligence that caused losses as a result of disruption to the farmers’ businesses.
The claim is being brought against the two laboratories at Pirbright, Surrey, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which was in charge of the sites. It is alleged that the laboratories were negligent in that the foot and mouth virus was discharged into the facilities defective drainage system.
The farmers claim that the consequent 2007 outbreak of the disease cost them £1.5 million in disrupted business caused by slaughter of livestock, inability to move livestock on and off farms and the export ban.
“The two laboratories owed farmers a duty to take reasonable care in the way they handled live FMD virus,” explains solicitor Peter Cusick, of Thring Townsend Lee & Pemberton, who is representing the farmers. “Farmers relied on them to do this properly which they failed to do.”