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Class action seeking compensation for loss and damages caused by 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires

Class action seeking compensation for loss and damages caused by 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires

Published on July 22, 2016 by Adrian O’Dea and Greg McAllisterAdrian O’Dea and Greg McAllister

In 2014, a class action was commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales by a group of plaintiffs who suffered loss and damage as a result of the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires that started in Springwood on 17 October 2013. A separate class action was commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales by the insurers for a group of plaintiffs who suffered loss and damage in that same fire. The two actions were heard concurrently and the plaintiffs sought damages in excess of $200 million.

The plaintiffs in each class action sought to recover damages from Endeavour Energy, an electricity provider, alleging that Endeavour Energy was liable for loss and damage arising from the fire. The plaintiffs alleged that the fire started when a tree (which was internally rotten) fell onto power lines, and that this was the result of Endeavour Energy’s alleged failure to adequately maintain vegetation that might impact on its electricity assets.

Endeavour Energy sought to limit its liability and cross-claimed against a contractor engaged by it to undertake pre-summer bushfire inspections of its electricity assets. Endeavour Energy alleged that this contractor should have identified the tree that fell onto the power lines as one which required removal or trimming. The plaintiffs also joined this contractor as a defendant in each class action.

Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers represented the contractor in the defence of the claims brought by the plaintiffs in each class action and the cross-claim by Endeavour Energy. None of the claims against the contractor proceeded to hearing.

Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers also acted for the contractor in a cross-claim against London Underwriters and two brokers in relation to coverage under a policy of professional indemnity insurance. It was alleged that this insurance policy covered, amongst other things, the defence costs incurred by the contractor in defending the claims made by the plaintiffs in each class action and the cross-claim brought by Endeavour Energy. A settlement of this cross-claim was achieved part way through the hearing before his Honour Justice Garling in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

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