Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Court rules egg-case documents are opened

Master Thomas Hawkins has tossed out a sealing order in the egg-industry case, meaning that the public has access to all of the documents filed by L.H. Gray & Son Ltd., Burnbrae Farms Ltd. and the Egg Farmers of Ontario Marketing Board. More important, all of the allegations of wrongdoing filed by Sweda Farms Ltd. against those three defendants has also had the court sealings that have been in place for more than a year cancelled. Lawyer Allison Webster, acting for Gray, has argued that the information in the court documents will ruin Gray’s reputation. She insists that Gray has done nothing wrong. Neither the allegations nor the defence positions have been tested yet in court. Webster could still file an appeal against Hawkins’ ruling. Most of the information in the court documents has been reported before the sealing orders were put in place. The allegations include charges that the three conspired to drive Sweda out of business, that there was cheating on egg grades, that there has been collusion to reduce price competition at the wholesale level and that there has been a conspiracy to keep Sweda from importing eggs to meet demand that can’t be met by Canadian-produced eggs. One of the key outstanding issues is what to do with electronic records of Gray’s e-mails and egg-grading records. Lawyer Donald Good, acting for Sweda, is convinced those records prove the allegations are well founded. The egg board accused Sweda of short-changing farmers on egg grading and the egg board of levies which are based on the volume of Grade A eggs. Sweda counters that its grading was accurate, the egg-board allegations damaged its reputation with farmers and says it’s the dominant egg graders who were cheating by including cracks and other undergrades in their Grade A marketings.