News State Victoria News Bushfire class action: What it means for victims and the power company

Bushfire class action: What it means for victims and the power company

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The court case

Ten thousand victims of the Kilmore East -Kinglake bushfire have today secured the biggest class action settlement in Australian legal history, receiving a $500 million payout.

The victims of the 2009 Black Saturday fire include relatives of those killed, people who lost their homes, and those who were injured in the fire.

The Kilmore East – Kinglake fire killed 119 people, destroyed more than 1100 homes, and caused an estimated $1 billion worth of damage, according to a Fairfax report.

The compensation is expected to come mainly from power company SP AusNet, whose faulty equipment has been blamed for starting the fire.

The group sued SP AusNet, Utility Services Corporation Limited, who was contracted to maintain the lines, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission

A royal commission into the bushfires ran for 17 months from 2009 to 2010, investigating the causes and responses to the bushfire.

Major findings of the commission were that there was a lack of education within communties about bushfire safety and the dangers of staying and defending their homes.

It was also found that the Country Fire Authority and Department of Sustainability and Environment did not operate on the day in an integrated matter, performing duplicate functions.

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission found that five fires on Black Saturday were caused by electrical faults, with SP AusNet’s equipment believed to have ignited the Kilmore East-Kinglake fire.

SP AusNet

SP AusNet is a Singaporean-owned power company which distributes electricity around Victoria through power grids.

A faulty power conductor owned by SP Ausnet that was damaged by lightning is alleged to have caused the fire in Kilmore East-Kinglake.

SP AusNet have maintained that they managed their network efficiently during the class action.

‘‘The conductor which broke and which initiated the fire was damaged by lightning, compromising its fail-safety design in a manner which was undetectable at that time,’’ the company said in a statement.

According to a report by The Age, SP Ausnet reached a settlement with victims without an admission of their liability.

The company said that its liability insurers would pay its contribution to the $500 million settlement.