Berrymans seeking $4.5m damages from army

Keith and Margaret Berryman are suing the New Zealand army for about $4.5 million 12 years after a beekeeper died when his truck fell through an army-built bridge leading to their King Country farm.

The Berryman's lawyer, Rob Moodie, confirmed today he had filed the damages suit in the High Court at Wellington last week and expected it to be served on the Solicitor-General in the coming week.

The suit alleged negligence, breach of contract and misfeasance by the army, which built the bridge leading to the farm in 1986.

Dr Moodie said his statement of claim alleged negligent breaches of duty and care by the army in relation to the materials it approved for the bridge's construction, and design and construction errors.

The claim sought damages of $122,000 for the cost of the original materials the Berrymans supplied, and for rebuilding the bridge.

Legal costs of about $183,500 were sought, and the Berrymans were seeking a further $25,000 in plaintiffs' costs.

They also wanted $1.5m for the loss of their farm, $1.5m for pain and suffering, $500,000 for loss of income and $350,000 in exemplary damages, Dr Moodie confirmed.

The Berrymans were charged by the Occupational Safety and Health division of the Department of Labour in connection with the death of beekeeper Ken Richards, but the charges were thrown out of court.

Taumarunui coroner Tim Scott blamed the Berrymans for not maintaining the bridge.

But since Dr Moodie took over the case in 2004, it has emerged that the Defence Force kept information from the coroner that laid some of the blame with the army engineers who designed and built the bridge as a training exercise.

The Solicitor-General has declined four applications by the Berrymans for a new inquest.

Dr Moodie said today two other aspects of the case were also going through the courts.

One was a review he had sought form the High Court into the solicitor-general's refusal to grant a rehearing of the inquest

The solicitor-general, acting for the army, was moving to strike out the application, with the matter to be heard at the High Court in Wellington on May 10.

On June 26, the Court of Appeal was to hear an appeal by the Berrymans against a decision to award the army $10,000 in costs against them last year.

- NZPA

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