Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gray loses bid to keep documents secret

Lawyer Alison Webster has lost her bid to keep documents in the lawsuit against her egg-grading client, L.H. Gray and Son Ltd., sealed away from the public.

Justice J. Kitely issued his decision this week, over-turning an earlier court ruling by Master Thomas Hawkins that sealed the documents so nobody from the public could take a look.

Kitely’s reasons will be issued soon.

Webster has consistently tried to keep information away from reporters and the public, but has failed to keep the nub of the issues secret.

Sweda Farms Ltd. is accusing Gray of cheating on egg grades, resulting in a move by the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board to allege that Sweda was being too strict in its grading of eggs from its farmer-suppiers. The egg board noted that the majority of farm eggs resulted in a higher percentage of Grade A eggs, but if Gray and Burnbrae Farms Ltd. were both cheating on grading, as Sweda alleges, then it’s they and not Sweda who are at fault.

The egg board forced Sweda to pay more levies on the basis that it had not properly graded eggs. It also let Sweda’s suppliers know and Sweda alleges that Burnbrae found out and aggressively canvassed its suppliers to switch from Sweda to Burnbrae.

Sweda also alleges that Burnbrae, Gray and the egg board conspired to thwart Sweda’s applications to import eggs when there were shortages on the Ontario market.

Burnbrae has convinced a judge to dismiss all the charges against it. That decision is under appeal.

Webster tried the same dismissal tactic on behalf of Gray, but failed in both the initial court decision and a recent appeal.

Among the sealed documents is a treasure trove of electronic files that Norman Bourdeau, then the information technology officer for Gray, copied from the company’s computer.

Those files are under court protection of a Kitchener lawyer appointed to be the custodian.

Once it becomes clear how much information from those files will be allowed as evidence in the lawsuit, it’s likely that it will either proceed to trial or an out-of-court settlement.

That’s likely to take until next year.