Firm can sue supplier over morphine allegedly in horse feed

Feed was supplied to Connolly’s Red Mills by Dublin-based Torc Grain and Feed Ltd

Connolly’s Red Mills in 2003 informed Torc Grain and Feed Ltd they would be seeking full indemnity over any claims made against the company by trainers and owners whose horses had been disqualified as a result of trace-element morphine being found in  feed. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Connolly’s Red Mills in 2003 informed Torc Grain and Feed Ltd they would be seeking full indemnity over any claims made against the company by trainers and owners whose horses had been disqualified as a result of trace-element morphine being found in feed. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

A horse feed distributor can proceed with its legal action against a grain supplier after trace elements of morphine were found in racehorses allegedly due to contaminated feed, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

As a result of urine tests on the animals, which had competed in events in October/November 2002, the horses were disqualified.

The horses had eaten horse feed supplied to their owners by William Connolly and Sons, trading as Connolly’s Red Mills, Gorsebridge, Co Kilkenny, it is claimed.

Bulk cereals

The feed had been supplied to Connolly’s by Dublin-based Torc Grain and Feed Ltd, an importer of bulk cereals and materials used in the manufacture of animal feed.

Connolly’s had in 2003 informed Torc they would be seeking full indemnity over any claims made against the company by trainers and owners whose horses had been disqualified as a result of trace-element morphine being found in the feed.

Connolly’s also said it would seek from Torc all costs it would incur in dealing with complaints being considered by the Turf Club and Jockey Club in relation to the alleged contamination.

It was another five years-plus before Connolly’s issued its legal proceedings, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said in the appeal court.

Exchanges of documents

There were exchanges of legal documents, as a well as a change of solicitor by Connolly’s, between 2008 and 2014, when Torc applied to the High Court to dismiss the action on grounds of alleged inordinate and inexcusable delay and because it was allegedly bound to fail, she said.

The High Court rejected that application and Torc appealed that decision.

Ms Justice Irvine, giving the three-judge appeal court’s decision, dismissed the appeal and said the case could proceed.

Although Connolly’s had been guilty of inordinate and inexcusable delay in prosecuting its case, she was not satisfied, in the “special circumstances that exist at this point in time, that the balance of justice favours the dismissal of the action”.

Her judgment was particular to its own set of facts in this case and rested on the fact that Torc, by engaging at length with Connolly’s since 2010 “without complaint”, had waived its earlier objection of inordinate delay, she said.