Fourth class action filed over St Patrick’s Day fires
Class Actions June 18, 2018 4:36 pm By Cat Fredenburgh | Melbourne

Powercor Australia has been hit a class action alleging its negligence led to a fire in the Gazette area of South West Victoria, the fourth class action the electrical distribution company faces over the 2018 St Patrick’s Day fires.

The class action, brought by Maddens Lawyers, claims the fire began when a tree from a blue gum plantation failed and fell onto nearby powerlines, causing one of the conductors to fall to the ground and ignite dry grasses below.

“This fire should never have occurred. The powerlines were situated too close to the mature blue gums such that if a plantation tree failed in high winds, as they frequently do, it was inevitable and foreseeable that the live conductors would be dislodged. Such an event is very easily avoided by controlling the height of the plantation trees adjacent to the lines,” Brendan Pendergast, Maddens Lawyers’ Class Action Principal, said.

The fire, which allegedly destroyed around 3,500 hectares before being contained, caused significant damage to nearby properties, the class action claims. Two residences were destroyed, as were more than 20 farms, causing loss of stock, pasture and fencing loss, the lawsuit claims.

Powercor now faces four class actions in the Supreme Court of Victoria over the fires, with potential damages exceeding $50 million, according to Maddens.

The first class action was brought March 28 on behalf of individuals who suffered physical or psychiatric injury or personal property damage or loss as a result of the fire near Garvoc. The lawsuit claims Powercor breached its duty to ensure its powerlines were safe. The class seeks damages plus interest as well as costs.

Maddens filed another St Patrick’s Day fire class action on April 10 over a fire near Terang, and another class action on May 17 over a fire near Gnotuk.

A case management hearing in the class actions has been scheduled for June 29 before Justice John Dixon.


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Christine Caulfield

Christine Caulfield has been a journalist for 18 years. She was most recently the Co-Managing Editor at US legal news publication Law360. Prior to that she worked as the County Court reporter for The Herald Sun. She is Co-Founder and Editor of Lawyerly.