Kiwifruit growers and the Crown will battle it out again in the Court of Appeal over the next two weeks in a case that could become precedent-setting, local media Stuff.co.nz reported.
Last year a High Court judge ruled that the Ministry of Primary Industries was negligent in allowing the kiwifruit disease Psa to enter the country in 2009.
Justice Jillian Mallon said the Ministry of Agriculture (now MPI) owed a duty of care to kiwifruit growers because it had responsibility for controlling what goods could be imported into New Zealand.
In lodging its appeal, the Crown said it wanted to clarify whether it owed a duty of care to private citizens, and if government regulators could be sued in negligence.
The High Court also found that growers – known as the Kiwifruit Claim – had proven on the balance of probabilities that a consignment of anthers from China containing pollen was the cause of the outbreak.
The Kiwifruit Claim has filed a cross appeal on the grounds that MPI was negligent in failing to inspect a shipment of banned kiwifruit plant material, infected with Psa, when it arrived from China.
It is also appealing the ruling that packer Seeka was not owed a duty of care because while it suffered economic damage, it did not suffer property damage.
Following its arrival, the disease devastated crops and forced growers to cut out their infected vines. Some exited the industry altogether.
The 212 growers who have joined the Kiwifruit Claim class action are seeking NZ$450 million in compensation.
Kiwifruit Claim chairman John Cameron said he was confident the Court of Appeal would agree with the High Court judgment.