The Spirit of Tasmania has denied any liability for the death of 16 horses.
In court documents lodged with the Victorian Supreme Court, TT-Line claim no liability due to a sponsorship agreement.
Andrew Williams filed a civil case in August, accusing TT-Line and QUBE Holdings of negligence and failing to provide the horses with a safe environment for travel.
He is claiming $639,000 in damages as the combined value of 13 of the 16 horses that died, as well as the estimated loss of $100,000 in wages from his polo business
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Mr Williams alleges the horses died between the time of boarding the Spirit of Tasmania in Devonport on January 28 and 2am the following day, a week after competing at the Barnbougle Polo tournament.
The horses were among 18 on-board a truck being driven back to NSW by Mr Williams, who co-owned seven of the horses referenced in the court claim.
The remaining six were owned by Twynam Agricultural Group.
In its defence, TT-Line claims regardless of whether the horses died on the Spirit of Tasmania, or as the result of any failing of care on its part, it is not liable for any loss suffered because of the terms of Mr William’s sponsorship contract.
TT-Line also claims Mr Williams failed to check on the condition of the horses during the journey to Devonport, after arriving at the TT-Line terminal, before leaving the vehicle deck on January 28, before driving off the ship on January 29 and until a point “well into the journey” towards the horses’ ultimate destination.
In a statement released shortly after the incident was first reported, Mr Williams said he discovered the horses “dead and cold” inside the truck an hour after departing the Spirit of Tasmania.
Meanwhile, the Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Department confirmed it has provided its investigations into the the horses’ deaths to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“Although further comment cannot be made on the investigation at this stage, the department reiterates the earlier advice that the evidence indicates the deaths of the horses was an isolated incident,” a DPIPWE spokesman said.
“The department’s investigation has found that there is not a risk for horses transported across Bass Strait in accordance with regulatory animal welfare standards.”
A direction hearing is scheduled to take place at the Victoria Supreme Court next Thursday.
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