Shattercane class action: plaintiff's lawyer 'confident' of litigation funding; defendants 'confident' of vindication

The class action had its second mention in the Supreme Court of Queensland on July 28. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
The class action had its second mention in the Supreme Court of Queensland on July 28. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

IT’S “make or break now” in the Queensland-NSW shattercane class action: the plaintiffs have just weeks to secure backing of $160,000 or “that'll be the end of it”.

Lawyer Dan Creevey said the amount and timeframe were negotiated during a second mention in the Queensland Supreme Court on July 28.

He said he was in talks with several litigation funders to secure their support - and while they needed to “do their due diligence”, he was “pretty confident”.

The defendant, Advanta Seeds, said it would continue to “vigorously contest” claims it supplied a variety of sorghum seeds allegedly contaminated with shattercane seed.

“We don't believe it is appropriate to foreshadow the evidence that will come out in the action,” managing director Nick Gardner said in a statement to the Country Leader.

“We are confident that our stance will be vindicated.

“Advanta values its reputation gained over the past 50 plus years as one of Australia's leading plant breeding and supplying companies.”

‘Claims vary markedly’

Mr Creevey said 30-plus farmers had now registered their interest in the class action, and “their claims vary markedly”.

“Some are relatively small claims because they only planted smaller amounts; some are into the multi-million dollars.”

He said he had interest from five litigation funders who “invest in actions like this if they think they can make a quid out of it”.

“They cover the adverse cost orders, pay the legal fees, the experts’ fees and to run it, and for that risk they then get a percentage of the damages that ultimately come through … 20 to 30 per cent is what they ask to assume the risk,” Mr Creevey said.

“We’ve got much interest from a number of the funders, who have all indicated a great interest in the matter.

“But until they do their due diligence and are satisfied the risk is worth it, of course, it’s akin to going to the bank for a loan and getting approval in principle - then you have to jump through all the hoops.”

Mr Creevey said he had to return to court in late September.

There was the chance of an extension if he had “a very compelling argument for Her Honour”, Justice Debra Mullins, but that was unlikely.

“It’s make or break now within the next six to eight weeks, and if we don't get funding, that'll be the end of it,” he said.