20 October 1995

Union faces huge damages claim for negligent advice

A DAIRY farming couple are claiming damages running into millions of pounds for negligent advice from the NFU.

Londons High Court was told on Monday that the couple ploughed every penny they had into what should have been a "dream farm" only to be robbed of the fruits of their labour by negligent advice from the NFU.

Alexander and Ann Marie Hood are claiming compensation from the NFU for lost profits, hundreds of thousands in wasted capital and the shattering of their ambitious hopes for Greys Green Farm, Rotherfield Greys, Oxon.

In December 1991 a High Court judge ruled that the NFUs failure to exercise "reasonable care and skill" in advising the Hoods had cost them the chance of winning "exceptional hardship" milk quota vital to their plans.

In May 1993, three Appeal Courts judges dismissed the NFUs appeal, describing the High Court negligence findings as "unassailable".

Mr Justice Rattee now has to assess the amount of damages to which Mr and Mrs Hood are entitled.

Their counsel, Richard Gordon QC, said they were claiming almost £850,000 in capital losses alone as well as £250,000 a year in revenue losses.

The couples losses to date amounted to £888,542 and the estimated cost of establishing a new 400-cow herd was estimated at £1,716,425.

The court heard that the couple "sank their entire capital" into their farm in September 1983.

They had no idea that milk quotas would be introduced the following year and their business plans were thrown into chaos when they were allocated provisional quota far below that needed to maintain a 400-cow herd.

In January 1995, the couple suffered another bitter blow when the Dairy Produce Quota Tribunal not only refused them "exceptional hardship quota" but slashed the quota they had already been awarded by 130,000 litres.

Mr Hood consulted the NFU on seeking a possible High Court judicial review of the tribunals decision.

But the NFU failed to warn him of a strict three-month time limit in which he had to bring his case to court.

The hearing continues, and it is expected to last for about eight days.