More and more producers are going high-tech to adapt to the ever evolving world in which they now produce our food. A good or bad harvest can hang in the balance if yields are down or the crop which has been sown is not best suited to the ground on a particular farm.
Changes in the market have led to more work for agronomists with food and fuel providers needing to increase yields while maintain or improve the quality of crops.
In order to make the most of the ground and the local growing environment, specialist advice can be sought from an agronomist. The agronomist will provide advice specific to the circumstances in hand the it will then be for the producer as to whether that advice is acted upon.
As with all advice, on some occasions it can transpire at a later date that it was incorrect and that the reliance on the advice has caused loss to the producer.
If you are in the unfortunate circumstances where you believe the advice which you have received was incorrect, you may be able to bring a negligence claim against the agronomist (or the company by whom he/she is employed).
What do you need to show to be able to bring a claim?
As with all negligence cases, you must be able to show that a duty of care existed. An agronomist will owe a contractual duty of care to the producer once the instruction has been accepted. That duty of care requires the agronomist to exercise reasonable care and skill which would be expected by any average or reasonably competent agronomist. The standard is not perfection or excellence.
Once a duty of care has been established, it must be shown that the standard of care has fallen below that which would be expected of an average or reasonably competent agronomist. This can be an act, an omission, lack of or incorrect information, failure to properly advise generally or failure to properly assess growing conditions so as to give rise to incorrect advice being given.
When assessing the issue in hand i.e. the breach, consideration is given to factors such as:
- Standard practice at the time of the alleged breach;
- Differing opinions of agronomists; and
- The level of experience of the agronomist.
A negligence claim will not succeed if it cannot be shown that the breach of duty caused loss or damage. This is typically the most difficult part of the claim to prove.
It must be proved that, but for the agronomist’s negligence or omission, the loss would not have been suffered by the producer. It is important to note that loss is an element which is necessary for a claim to be successful. If the loss that you have suffered was caused by something else such as adverse and unexpected weather conditions then, unfortunately, the claim will not be successful.
In conjunction with the above, the loss caused needs to be reasonably foreseeable and therefore reasonably imaginable that the result would happen if an agronomist were negligent.
If causation and loss can be established, a Court will aim to put you back into the position that you would be in if the negligence had not occurred. Ordinarily, so as to avoid disproportionate legal costs being incurred, we would not deal with claims where the loss in expected to be less than £10,000. In some circumstances, mediation rather than court proceedings can be considered and further information about mediation can be found here.