More than 250 people crowded into the Springwood Sports Club last Wednesday night for an update on the legal action over the October bushfires.
It was standing room only as barrister Tim Tobin, SC, explained how the lawsuit would work and answered a number of questions from the audience.
The case is being handled by Victorian firm Madden Solicitors. One of the firm’s principals, Brendan Pendergast, who was also at the meeting, said a large number of people decided on the night to join the class action and there were now nearly 400 people registered.
He believed the total claim will exceed $200 million.
The case against Endeavour Energy alleges the fire started when poorly maintained trees fell on electrical conductors in Linksview Road, Springwood.
The resulting fire destroyed 200 homes and partly damaged as many again. Local businesses that escaped the fire itself also suffered, enduring financial losses in the following months as the regular summer tourist trade steered clear of the blackened region and surrounding townships.
Mr Pendergast said there was a lot of discussion at the meeting about what losses may be claimed, including uninsured items like gardens and trees, the cost of people’s own labour in cleaning up and any compensation for inconvenience.
Earlier in the day the parties attended a directions hearing before Justice Peter Garling in the NSW Supreme Court. Orders were made for discovery of documents, which Endeavour Energy will have to produce. There will be a further directions hearing on August 29 but as yet no trial date has been set.
Mr Tobin, who will argue the Linksview case, is an experienced bushfire lawyer and was involved in the Kilmore East-Kinglake fire claim where a record $500 million settlement was reached just last month.
That lawsuit was brought after the bushfire royal commission found that fire had been caused by an ageing power line owned by distributor SP AusNet. The case involved 10,000 people, including relatives of the 119 killed, people injured and those who lost their homes and property.
They sued a number of companies and authorities including SP AusNet, the Country Fire Authority and Victoria Police. SP AusNet will pay the lion’s share of the claim — $378.6 million — but the company did not admit liability, insisting that the conductor which broke and initiated the fire was damaged by lightning.