Farming and Agribusiness Dispute Lawyers

Dispute Resolution & Litigation

Attwood Marshall Lawyers can provide expert legal assistance to individuals and businesses facing disputes in the agriculture industry.

We understand the unique challenges associated with farming arrangements, agribusiness, and related industries. We’re here to help you protect your interests when a dispute arises and to resolve any conflict as quickly as possible.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers has a proud history of assisting Australia’s rural community. Many of the firm’s lawyers have grown up on and around farms. The firm’s Legal Practice Director, Jeff Garrett, is himself the proud owner of a thoroughbred horse stud.

Commercial Litigation Partner Charles Lethbridge, also spent much of his youth working on farms and properties in Western Queensland.

As a firm, we understand the issues which can arise during the course of crop and livestock farming, the purchase or sale of expensive machinery and the unique issues which arise with respect to intergenerational farming operations.

At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, we frequently act for individuals and companies, including family-owned farms. We are an industry leader in alternative dispute resolution with an enviable track record of successfully settling litigated disputes to the advantage of our clients. We understand the importance of resolving agribusiness and farming disputes quickly and efficiently to ensure minimal disruption to your business and minimise conflict within families.

If the early resolution of a dispute cannot be achieved, Attwood Marshall Lawyers has earned a reputation as a fierce litigation law firm fighting tooth and nail for clients who have suffered serious losses because of someone else’s conduct.

Implementing a strategic balance is the approach we employ to achieve your goals.

We act for clients in relation to:

  • Contract disputes, including share farming disputes
  • Contaminated soil
  • Payment disputes
  • Defective machinery, including seeders, headers and tractors
  • Disputes over ownership of land
  • Negligent agronomic advice
  • Spray drift disputes

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Share farming and contract farming arrangements essentially involve parties working together and sharing the profit and risk associated with crop farming.

Although most don’t, it is always a good idea to have a written agreement in place setting out the terms of the arrangement to ensure that all parties involved in the farming are on the same page to prevent possible disputes down the track.

Often, we see disputes arise between farmers and farm owners in relation to the division of the profits of a crop where such disputes could be nipped in the bud early on if a written agreement had been entered into.

Share farming is an arrangement where a landowner or tenant enters into an agreement with a farmer to cultivate the landowner’s property and share the profits generated from the crop, generally on a percentage basis. In this setup, the landowner typically does not contribute towards the farming of the crop and simply provides the property for the farmer’s use. There is no hard and fast rule as to what each party might contribute to the operation.

Contract farming involves the landowner or tenant providing funds to another farmer to farm the landowner or tenant’s property at an agreed rate.

Essentially, these promises (or alleged promises) exist within farming families, where there’s an understanding that the land and its related business will be passed down to another family member at some stage. For instance, adult children may work on their parent’s properties for little remuneration on the promise that the family farm and its business will eventually become theirs.

Estoppel is a legal principle that prevents a person from asserting or denying a certain fact or claim due to their prior conduct, statements, or representations. Estoppel is based on the principle of fairness and preventing injustice. This typically arises when one party relies on the actions or promises made by another party and suffers a detriment as a result of that promise not being fulfilled. In these types of cases, the party who made the promise may be ‘estopped’ from going back on their word or denying the consequences of their actions.

A constructive trust is a legal remedy, imposed by a Court, to correct or prevent unjust enrichment. It is a trust created by the operation of law rather than by the intention of the parties involved. A constructive trust arises when someone wrongfully obtains property that rightfully belongs to another person. The Court can then impose a constructive trust to ensure that the person who wrongfully possesses the property holds it as a trustee for the rightful owner.

Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) (which is part of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)), contracts for the sale of goods include ‘statutory warranties’ that safeguard consumers. These warranties ensure that goods must meet certain standards, even if the supplier or retailer does not provide a specific warranty. The implied warranties state that goods should be of acceptable quality, suitable for their intended purpose, acceptable in appearance and finish, free from defects, and safe and durable.

Similarly, implied warranties are provided under the Sale of Goods Acts in each state which provides that goods must be of merchantable quality.

Further, section 29 of the ACL prohibits suppliers of goods and services from making false or misleading representations about goods and services that they supply in trade or commerce

Case Studies

Agribusiness disputes are fairly common in Australia. In the following cases, we provide a snapshot of how a court views disputes of this nature.

Roberts v Roberts [2021] SASC 72 – denial of oral agreement
This father and son dispute was over the enforcement of an alleged “handshake” or oral agreement between the pair for the sale of a family station, Pulgamurtie in remote New South Wales, for $2.6 million in 2012. The case went to trial in 2021, and the son argued he had acted to his detriment – by improving, maintaining, and working on the farm, as well as buying plant and livestock – on the basis that he would eventually own the 74,663-hectare farm, which is a cattle and sheep station. The father denied the agreement, but the son ended up winning his case, with the Supreme Court of South Australia ordering the father to sell the farm for an increased $3.8 million.
Read Judgment
Headon & Others v Clancy & Others BC9702682 – oral contract, a presumption not binding
At the heart of this dispute from the 1990s was a six-year sharefarming agreement, allegedly between the Headon family and their neighbour Mr Clancy. The family were seeking to enforce a different contract under which they believed Clancy would buy their property near Hay, New South Wales, called Lavistock, and part of another property known as Rushtons, in addition to two water licenses for $3 million. The dispute ended up in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1997, which had to decide whether the parties intended for the sharefarming agreements to have legal effect, and whether they were invalid because one of the Headons was not party to the agreement over her land. The judge found that the sharefarming agreements were binding. But he also found the evidence on both sides unreliable due to the soured relationship. The family’s total holdings covered about 65,000 acres. However, at the time of the dispute, they were under significant pressure due to a bank debt they couldn’t service. They were also not sophisticated in relation to financial management and the judge said that they “have been let down” because the sharefarming deal would prevent any proposed sale.
Giumelli v Giumelli (1999) 196 CLR 101 – estoppel re farming venture
A family dispute over land ownership and an alleged oral agreement. This case involved a son’s claim that his parents promised to subdivide their 338-acre property, Dwellingup, outside Perth, and transfer him a portion which was referred to as the “promised lot”. In return, the son said he worked for the family partnership without wages (the family ran an orchard), built a house on the property and refused other work. The Supreme Court of Western Australia ended up ordering equitable compensation. The case, which went all the way to the High Court of Australia on appeal, is one of Australia’s leading cases on equitable or proprietary estoppel.
Read Judgment
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The importance of estate planning for agribusiness owners

Estate planning holds significant importance for agribusiness owners, particularly those involved in intergenerational farming. There are extensive legal issues to consider when transferring assets and property to the next generation.

There are often substantial assets tied up including land, machinery, equipment, livestock, and other associated properties. Through proper estate planning, farm owners can ensure a smooth transition of these assets to the next generation while minimising potential tax liabilities.

Proper succession planning can allow for the preservation and continuity of the family farm or agribusiness, maintaining its legacy and reducing the risk of interruptions to the business.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers have a dedicated team of estate planning lawyers who practice exclusively in Succession Law. Our team can work with agribusiness and rural property owners to create a personalised and comprehensive plan to ensure your assets are planned for and distributed as you wish after you are gone. Our team understand the complexity of intergenerational farming and agribusinesses and are highly reputed in the legal industry for their expertise in this area.

Meet our Agribusiness, Farming and Rural Dispute Resolution team

Our dedicated team of lawyers who practice exclusively in commercial litigation and dispute resolution can assist with agribusiness and farming disputes across all states and territories of Australia.

Jeff Garrett - Legal Practice Director - Wills & Estates, Estate Litigation, Property & Commercial, Compensation Law, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Law, Racing & Equine Law



Legal Practice Director
Wills & Estates, Estate Litigation, Property & Commercial, Compensation Law, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Law, Racing & Equine Law
Charles Lethbridge - Partner - Commercial Litigation



Commercial Litigation
Amanda is the Department Manager and Senior Paralegal for not only the Estate Litigation and Commercial Litigation Departments, but also oversees both Equine Law and Criminal Law divisions



Department Manager
Estate Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Law, Racing & Equine Law
Georgia Taylor - Senior Associate - Commercial Litigation, Racing & Equine Law



Senior Associate
Commercial Litigation, Racing & Equine Law
Jade Carlson graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (with Honours) and Bachelor of Business from Griffith University in 2012. After completing her Practical Legal Training through the College of Law, she was admitted to the Queensland Supreme Court in 2013 and to the High Court of Australia in 2016.



Senior Associate
Commercial Litigation
Timothy holds a Diploma in Sports Management from Southern Cross University which he completed prior to starting a Bachelor of Laws at Bond University. Timothy received his Bachelor of Laws in 2017, graduating with two specialisations; General Legal Practice and Corporate and Commercial Law.



Commercial Litigation
James holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from Griffith University as well as a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law and a Diploma of Business. He is admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland.



Commercial Litigation



Senior Paralegal
Commercial Litigation
With an interest in Public Relations and Law, Chloe took the opportunity to join the firm and became part of the Administration team in February 2020.



Senior Paralegal
Estate Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Law, Racing & Equine Law
Danielle completed a law and public policy internship at the Legal Resources Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2019 where she worked closely with solicitors on matters relating to socio-economic rights violations.



Estate Litigation, Commercial Litigation