High Court denies media access to court files in Danone’s suit against Fonterra

The High Court at Auckland has denied media organisations’ access to court files in Danone’s claims against Fonterra — at least for now.

In January, Danone filed a statement of claim against Fonterra relating to the fallout from last year’s botulism scare.

Fonterra has asked for a stay of the proceeding and objects to media access. Danone does not oppose.

The court received requests seeking either a copy of the statement of claim or access to the court file from three media organisations: Radio New Zealand, the Wall Street Journal and an Australian-based Bloomberg News reporter.

Justice Brendan Brown’s decision was released to the media at 5pm on Friday.

The refusal is “pending the determination by the Court of the defendant’s application for a stay of the proceeding. When that judgment is available, depending upon the outcome, that will then be the appropriate time to revisit the issue of access to the court file,” says Justice Brown’s decision.

Fonterra has filed an application to suspend proceedings in New Zealand’s High Court. However, proceedings have also begun for arbitration in Singapore.

The statement of claim pleads four causes of action arising out of last year’s botulism scare, Justice Brown’s decision says. Two are for breaches of the Fair Trading Act 1986 and two alleging tortious conduct.

Fonterra has not filed a statement of defence.

Justice Brown says media access may be revisited after a judgment is determined for the application for a stay of proceedings.

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