Federal Court dismisses negligence suit against Govt
PUTRAJAYA: A negligence suit filed by 184 pig farmers and the next of kin of those who died in the 1998/1999 Nipah virus epidemic against the Government has been thrown out by the Federal Court.
The apex court ruled that the Government was not liable for the losses caused by the Nipah virus.
Chief Judge of Malaya Datuk Arifin Zakaria who sat with Federal Court Justices Datuk Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman and Datuk Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin unanimously allowed with costs the Government’s appeal against the Court of Appeal decision in favour of the plaintiffs.
Reading the judgment, Nik Hashim said the pig farmers’ claim was not sustainable and therefore must be struck out.
The farmers and the others had sought various damages, including for the loss of pigs, damage to farm facilities and medical and funeral expenses amounting to RM136mil.
In the suit, they named the federal govern*ment and Negri Sembilan, Perak and Selangor governments as defendants and accused them of being negligent in handling the virus outbreak in September 1998.
They claimed that their losses were caused by the defendants’ negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of statutory duty.
The High Court Senior Assistant Registrar struck out the suit on Feb 4, 2004, and this was affirmed by the High Court.
On April 5, 2005, the Court of Appeal allowed the plaintiffs’ appeal and ordered the case to be tried and disposed of speedily at the High Court.
Following this, the Government brought the case to the Federal Court.
In the judgment yesterday, the Federal Court said it agreed with the Government’s submission that the pig farmers’ pleading reveal that the claim was not one of continuous tort but relates to specific acts or omissions, namely failing to take steps to determine the cause of the outbreak of the virus and failing to refer or send samples to the right experts for examination.
He said all these events happened earlier than March 1, 1999.
“The decision made on March 18, 1999, and March 19, 1999, to cull the pigs were actually not challenged. Therefore, since the suit was filed on March 20, 2002, the action was clearly time barred as it was filed out of time,” said Nik Hashim.
He said the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court had consistently struck out claims when it was clear that the statute of limitations would be relied on or raised. — Bernama