Ridley asks Supreme Court to toss BSE lawsuit

Feed manufacturer Ridley Inc. is making another legal bid to halt a proposed class action suit before it can begin, this time appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ridley, along with the federal government, is the targeted defendant in four co-ordinated lawsuits filed by cattlemen in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec. All four seek class-action certification to sue on behalf of all Canadian cattle producers, and ask for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in damages relating to the introduction of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) in the Canadian cattle herd.

The suits claim Ridley’s and the government’s negligence led to the introduction of BSE in the Canadian cattle feed supply, which in turn led to the first Canadian case of BSE in 2003, in turn cutting Canada off from many of its beef export markets and costing cattle producers millions in lost sales.

Ridley’s latest legal volley to the Supreme Court seeks leave to appeal a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which in June denied a Ridley motion to strike claims of economic losses by the Ontario representative plaintiff, cattleman Bill Sauer of Niagara Falls. The Ontario appeal court had upheld an Ontario Superior Court decision in January 2006, refusing Ridley’s bid for early dismissal.

Sauer’s proposed “class” for his suit includes cattlemen in the other six Canadian provinces. A hearing to certify his suit as a class action is not yet scheduled, Ridley said in a release.

Ridley said it’s filing with the Supreme Court because it “believes the (Ontario court) decision conflicts with Supreme Court of Canada case law and other court decisions,” the company wrote, adding that its proposed appeal “raises issues of national importance.”

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