Australian Equine Influenza Outbreak Lawsuit Planned

An Australian law firm is preparing a class action lawsuit surrounding the 2007 equine influenza outbreak in that country.

According to written statements posted on the Australian law firm of Maurice Blackburn's website, horses arrived at the Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne from Japan on Aug. 8, 2007. Four of those horses were subsequently air-transported to Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, where the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS, contained in the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry) quarantined the animals at the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station.

The law firm's statement said that at the time of the horses' arrival at least one of the four was infected with equine influenza. While in quarantine, one or more of those horses became infectious. Subsequently, the equine influenza virus escaped the quarantine station into the general population. By October, more than 7,000 premises in New South Wales and Queensland were infected with the disease, according to the law firm.

Yesterday, on July 5, the Maurice Blackburn law firm announced it was lodging a class action suit alleging that the Australian government failed to "take reasonable care" to control the virus and confine it to the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station. The suit to be filed in the Federal Court of Australia will seek damages for economic losses sustained by members of the equine industry who join in the class action, the law firm's statement said.

On July 6, in a written statement, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry said it was aware of Maurice Blackburn's intention to lodge the class action suit.

"Given that the issues are legal matters, the department is unable to say anything further," the statement said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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