In April this year, the Supreme Court in Mallonland Pty Ltd & Anor v Advanta Seeds Pty Ltd  QSC 74 rejected a claim by a group of sorghum growers for damages said to have been suffered from seed which included the shattercane weed.
Shattercane is genetically related to sorghum but produces a seed pod that cannot be harvested. On maturity, the seed pod “shatters”, spreading thousands of seeds of the invasive plant which can significantly affect field yields for many years.
Damages claimed by the growers were in the order of $104 million.
The Court found that the seed bags contained a disclaimer of responsibility which excluded any duty of care that the seed manufacturer may have owed the growers to prevent economic loss from weed infection. The disclaimer read as follows:
CONDITIONS OF SALE AND USE
Upon purchasing this product and opening the bag, the purchaser (“you”) agrees to be bound by the conditions set out below…
- You acknowledge that… it remains your responsibility to satisfy yourself that the product in the bag is fit for its intended use…
- Pacific Seeds Pty Ltd will not be liable to you… for any injury, loss or damage caused or contributed to by Pacific Seeds Pty Ltd (or its servants or agents), directly or indirectly arising out of or related to the use of the product in this bag, whether as a result of their negligence or otherwise…
This meant the negligence claim failed.
The growers also claimed damages for “misleading or deceptive conduct” by the seed manufacturer for remaining silent while aware of the shattercane infestation. However, the Judge found that the seed manufacturer did not know of the infestation at the relevant time.
Thynne + Macartney can assist growers to review their supply agreements and adopt strategies to minimise similar risks.
Author: Nick Knowlman (Lawyer)