Nicolas Puech v. Mathieu L’Hôte

September 16, 2019
Final judgment
France, Foix

Beekeepers/Honey Producers
Nicolas Puech
Alice Terrasse

Civil court
Liability action to obtain compensation for the death of 24 hives that were the subject of a pollination contract
Judicial Tribunal of Foix, France

June 3, 2020
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Farmer Mathieu L'Hôte signed a bee colony rental contract, i.e. 24 hives, with beekeeper Nicolas Puech on 5 April 2018 to ensure the pollination of a field of rapeseed. On 21 April 2018, Mathieu L'Hôte sprayed a nearby wheat field with a fungicide - Voxan - without informing the beekeeper beforehand, as required by the contract. On 23 April 2018, Nicolas Puech noticed a significant depopulation of his colonies and the loss of all his foragers. He then filed a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Foix.

On 3 June 2020, the Foix judicial tribunal recognised the link between contractual non-performance and bee mortality, since by not allowing the beekeeper to protect his bees by not warning him of the use he was going to make of the Voxan, Mathieu L'Hôte had directly allowed the loss to occur. The Tribunal thus ordered Mathieu L'Hôte to pay Nicolas Puech the sum of 3600 euros in compensation for material damage, as well as to pay the costs of the proceedings. N. Puech's claims for additional compensation were dismissed.

On 9 June 2020, the company SAS BASF France, which produces the fungicide Voxan, summoned before the Tribunal Judiciaire de Foix, M. L'Hôte and N. Puech, as third party-opposition, against the judgement of 3 June. In their view, the responsibility of Voxan was unjustifiably recognised as the sole cause of the bee mortality. This decision, according to the principle of res judicata, would put the company at legal risk, as it would encourage an appeal procedure against the marketing authorisation. On 9 February 2021, the judge declared the action brought by SAS BASF France inadmissible and ordered it to bear the entirety of the parties' costs. On February 24, 2021, SAS BASF France appealed this decision. On December 16, 2021, the Toulouse Court of Appeal again declared the action brought by SAS BASF France inadmissible and confirmed the Court's decision. The judge noted that the third party opposition is only open against the operative part and not against the reasons. However, the operative part does not in any way prejudice SAS BASF France since it only seeks to order a third party to pay compensation on the basis of its liability in the performance of a contract.