Maddens Lawyers



March 22nd, 2017 by


Clients and sub contractors of Watersun Homes left reeling after the company’s recent collapse may have access to a rescue fund to complete or fix their incomplete projects or recover payments.

Maddens Lawyers, a Victorian law firm with extensive experience negotiating insurance payouts, is pointing devastated Watersun home owners to the Domestic Building Insurance Policy (DBI) to help meet the inevitable costs of fixing the issues caused by the company’s voluntary administration last month.

Watersun Homes left around 300 homes incomplete when they appointed administrators last week. It’s also been reported that as much as $5 million is owed to sub-contractors.

Maddens Lawyers Senior Partner Brendan Pendergast explained the DBI was a mandatory policy for all building projects over the value of $16,000, that was taken out by the building company and came into play as soon as a contract was executed or building permit issued.

“DBI cover exists for situations exactly like this – when a company is insolvent, or for incomplete works on a building.

“This cover also allows for certain out-of-pocket expenses, like storage expenses while an owner is waiting for works to be completed, or accommodation costs.”

Mr Pendergast also noted that around 1,000 creditors had been impacted by Watersun’s recent administration and that sub-contractors had been hardest hit.  Approximately $5 million of payments owed to sub-contractors were yet to be paid, he said.

“It may be open to sub-contractors to make a demand for progress payments under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act or make a claim for loss through their own business insurance,” Mr Pendergast advised.

Mr Pendergast said his firm’s experience with insurance providers was that getting the maximum amount possible out of a policy was a complex task – and that it was common for policy holders to end up with less than what they were entitled to.

“It is not unusual for people to encounter difficulties or uncertainties with the insurance claim process,” he said. “Maximising a payout can be something of a skill… almost all insurance policies are written in order to make this a tricky process that favours the insurance company over the policy holder.”

A detailed understanding of the insurance industry’s “peculiarities” was the best way to ensure the maximum amount payable was extracted – including compensation for legal fees, Mr Pendergast said.

“The DBI policy also makes provision for reasonable legal fees – so seeking the help of a lawyer is a low-risk situation for a home owner looking to find the financial means to bring their dream home to completion,” he said.

Mr Pendergast encouraged impacted property owners or sub-contractors to contact Maddens Lawyers for assistance by telephoning 1800 815 228 or lodging an inquiry online.


December 13th, 2016 by


The law firm that led four Black Saturday bushfire class actions has now launched a class action on behalf of victims of a Scotsburn fire that last year burnt more than 4000 hectares and 12 houses.

 Maddens Lawyers Senior Partner and bushfire compensation expert Brendan Pendergast said his firm, which has successfully settled several bushfire-related class actions on behalf of hundreds of fire victims, was confident those who lost property in the 19 December 2015 fire had a strong case for compensation.

The 2015 Scotsburn fire broke out around 3pm on Saturday 19 December when a Finns Road paddock was being slashed by a local landowner. The Scotsburn resident, Roger Skimming, has since been convicted of failing to carry adequate fire-fighting equipment on the tractor he was using, which the court found could have suppressed the blaze before it took off.

Mr Pendergast said his firms’ investigations led them to believe fire victims had a strong case for compensation to cover uninsured losses. “Our early investigations, combined with our experience in bushfire litigation, tells us there is certainly a case worth pursuing,” Mr Pendergast said.

He encouraged any property owners who had been affected by the fire, via damage to property, pastures, fences, trees, livestock or otherwise, to contact the firm to register their interest in the class action. Mr Pendergast explained that by registering with Maddens Lawyers, fire victims would be kept up to date on the progress of the class action, and the investigations that formed part of the legal action.

“Registering isn’t necessarily a commitment to take action – at this early stage, it’s an excellent way to remain informed about the progress of the class action and remain across what their options are in relation to the litigation,” Mr Pendergast explained. “Registering with Maddens is free and it’s certainly not an obligation to take action – we see it as the best way for victims to be kept informed of the latest information.”

Mr Pendergast said the Warrnambool-based firm would be travelling to the Scotsburn area in coming weeks to run a public meeting to discuss the compensation claim.

“That will enable people to discuss the process and the general legal aspects of compensation claims,” Mr Pendergast explained.

Mr Pendergast clarified that a class action could be a lengthy process, from initial registration through to final payments post-trial, but added that his firm had achieved considerable success in the past. “For example, we are preparing to finalise compensation payments in a similar class action in the Gippsland region of Jack River, which has been three years between the date of the fire and final payments to burnt-out landowners,” he explained.

He encouraged anyone keen for more information about the class action process to contact Maddens Lawyers either online or toll free on 1800 815 228.

Maddens Lawyers, based in Warrnambool on Victoria’s South West Coast, successfully represented hundreds of regional landowners and businesses who lost property and business in four Black Saturday fires; Beechworth, in Victoria’s north east; Horsham and Coleraine, in the state’s far mid-west and Weerite, near Camperdown, in south west Victoria.

The firm is also involved in a number of additional bushfire class actions relating to other fires that have occurred more recently, such as Springwood in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and the Mickleham-Kilmore Bushfire that burnt through Melbourne’s outskirts in February 2014.

Farm workers entitled to pay rise from 1 July

July 1st, 2016 by

Farmers are being reminded their casual, part time and full time farm workers were due a payrise from 1 July this year, under Fair Work Australia rules governing on-farm employment conditions. 

Employment law expert Jane Blackburn, of Maddens Lawyers, explained that a mandatory payrise for farm employees was part of the Pastoral Award 2010, a Federal Award covering all farm employees. The Award automatically updates pay rates on 1 July every year, with pay determined by employee’s experience, qualifications and responsibilities.

“The saying is that nothing in life is certain, bar death and taxes… and you can add to that an increase in award pay rates,” Ms Blackburn said. “But it’s not something farmers can be flippant about. The scope of the Award is broad, the classifications it outlines are complex, the requirement to comply is absolute and the impact of not complying can be very expensive.”

Ms Blackburn explained the annual wage increase was set by the Fair Work Commission, and applied to a huge range of employees and farming enterprises. “Workers on a dairy farm. A piggery. Cattle or sheep. A cropping enterprise. Even beekeeping. It’s diverse and wide-reaching.

“Adding to this is that the classifications that determine what a worker is paid can also be quite prescriptive; they address an employee’s experience and qualification, but also what they do on the farm, if they provide any of their own equipment; even whether they have their own horse, or dog.

“The rates are based on a 38-hour-week average – and mandate that any hours over this must be paid as overtime. Part time or casual workers must be paid for shifts of at least three hours, even if they only work one or two and casuals must be paid loading.

“These are the areas where we continually see farmers caught out. And almost every time, the farmers think they are managing it by-the-book. It’s an indication of how complex the award is, rather than a reflection on how diligent local farmers are.” 

Ms Blackburn said the onus on knowing and paying the correct wage rate always fell on the employer. And if classifications and pay rates weren’t up to date, any shortfall had to be met via back-payments, even if underpayment was unintentional.

“Farmers need to be careful they are complying at all times… because a lump sum back-payment is a harsh reality, and can’t be avoided. It doesn’t even matter if underpayment was accidental, or inadvertent. If the matter is taken to court, penalties can also be imposed on top of any back-payments.”

Having worked with many farmers over the past six years to ensure they were compliant and across the complex requirements of the Award, Ms Blackburn urged operators to consult with an experienced advisor to ensure they had their staff payments in-hand.

“Employers must be up to date on the current classification of their employees, and keep in mind this classification can change at any time, due to the employee’s past experience, or tenure in the industry. Even if the employee is still doing exactly the same as what they were doing the day or the week before; it’s not that the Award moves the goalposts. It’s that there is a lot of them, and it can be hard to know which ones to look for.

“Getting another perspective can be the difference between compliance – and peace of mind – and non-compliance, backpayments and a hefty fine.”

Looking for more information? Speak to Jane Blackburn, Maddens Lawyers’ Employment Law expert.


Changes to spinal injury compensation laws

November 19th, 2015 by


Western Victoria’s most experienced personal injury lawyer has applauded pending new laws that will make it easier for spinal injury sufferers to claim compensation for their impairment. 

The Victorian Parliament is due to enact the Wrongs Amendment Bill 2015, which will modify a range of inequities in Victoria’s personal injuries legislation.

Gary Foster, an Accredited personal injury law specialist with Maddens Lawyers, said the changes to the Victorian Wrongs Act included lifting what was known as the spinal injury ‘impairment threshold’, making it easier for people injured in a public place or due to medical negligence to meet criteria for compensation.

“Previously, the Wrongs Act dictated that a person with a spinal injury could only claim compensation for pain and suffering if their injury resulted in what was medically assessed as more than five per cent permanent physical impairment,” he explained.

Mr Foster said changing the legislation from ‘more than’ to ‘including’ five per cent was a much bigger deal than it may seem – and it would make compensation available to a large number of people who, previously, had to be told they didn’t qualify.

“The complexities of the compensation system mean the medical ‘rating’ of an impairment increases in five per cent increments – the impact of a spinal injury is determined as either five per cent impairment, or 10% impairment, or 15% and so on.

“Until now, the legislation has determined a person with a spinal injury had to suffer ‘greater than five per cent’ impairment – effectively, a person had to suffer 10% impairment to be eligible for compensation. It excluded a whole range of injuries – and people – even though these people’s injuries were considerable and debilitating.

“By changing the legislation to include ‘five per cent impairment or more’ – even though it might seem a small thing – will make a huge difference to a great number of people who, until now, have had to accept that, according to the law, their suffering is not significant.”

Mr Foster added that the changes also made improved provisions for people who had suffered psychological injuries, also making it easier for them to claim compensation from those at fault.

“These changes are effectively about removing red tape in relation to compensation claims and making it more straight forward for the injured person to claim compensation. Previously, the Wrongs Act limited entitlements – this goes some way to rectifying that.”

Mr Foster encouraged anyone who had been injured in a public place, or as a result of medical negligence – whether it be spinal, psychological or otherwise – to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, as the compensation process was governed by strict time limits.



Lawyer welcomes Royal Commission redress scheme proposal

September 16th, 2015 by

Maddens Principal calls on new PM to take the lead with recommendations

Recommendations to establish a redress scheme for victims of church and institutional sex abuse have been welcomed by a South West Victorian compensation lawyer, who has today called on the nation’s new Prime Minister to take a lead on the issue.

Maddens Lawyers Principal Gary Foster, who has been contacted by hundreds of abuse victims since the Royal Commission was announced nearly three years ago, has long advocated for a victim’s redress scheme, explaining that it would provide a straight forward means of compensation for deserving victims.

Recommendations arising from the Royal Commission released this week, include the establishment of a redress scheme, as well as a minimum payment of $10,000.00 in proven claims, and a maximum payment of $200,000.00 for the most severe abuse claims.

Mr Foster explained the average claim was anticipated to be in the vicinity of $65,000.00.

“This provides a simpler, more common sense method of compensation when compared with costly litigation through the civil courts.” Mr Foster has hundreds of people registered to make a claim under such a scheme, many of whom are located in the South West region.

Whilst he noted that the Royal Commission also made recommendations to make civil litigation easier, he felt that in most cases a redress scheme has the potential to avoid much of the further trauma associated with pursuing litigation through the Courts.

“The proposed redress scheme also provides for the provision of ongoing counselling and psychological treatment – this is an essential element of any such scheme,” he said.

Mr Foster called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to lead from the front on the issue by not only committing the Federal Government to its implementation, but also using his skills to “bring along” affected institutions and State Governments with him.

“This is an ideal issue at an opportune time for Mr Turnbull to show what his leadership is made of” Mr Foster said.

The Royal Commission recommended that any redress scheme be operational by no later than 1 July 2017.


Maddens Launch Deception Bay Flood Class Action

May 21st, 2015 by

21 May 2015 –

Maddens Lawyers, a Victorian-based law firm that ran four successful Black Saturday bushfire class actions, today issued proceedings against civil construction firm Thies Pty Ltd in the Victorian Supreme Court in relation to the flood that swept through the Deception Bay/Redcliffs region earlier this month.

Yesterday (on 20 May) the firm launched another Queensland flood class action relating to the Callide Dam flood that affected residents of Biloela and Jambin in the Banana Shire. SunWater Limited is the named defendant in that action.

Maddens Lawyers Class Action Principal Brendan Pendergast said in both cases, the victims of the flooding were left to pick up the pieces left behind by a disaster that could have been either prevented or moderated had proper procedures and care been taken.

“In Deception Bay, locals are adamant that flooding in the area that was affected was never the issue it’s been since construction of the Moreton Bay Rail Link began,” he said.

“This meant residents suffered their second flood in eight weeks. Some of the residents hit by the 1 May flood were still displaced from the first event. Flooding like what has occurred has never happened before now – and we believe it’s due to these construction works.”

Maddens’ issuing of proceedings against Thies Pty Ltd, the company contracted to build the Moreton Bay Rail Link, followed a public meeting in Deception Bay less than two weeks ago.

Mr Pendergast said it was clear from this meeting that Deception Bay locals also believed the flow of local waterways had changed as a result of the train line works.

He said the Class Action would seek compensation for loss and damages inflicted by the flood, as well as the time residents had spent cleaning up once the flood dissipated.

Periodic community meetings would be scheduled to provide local residents with up to date advice and information and a chance to speak with Maddens personally about their options for compensation.

Maddens Lawyers has successfully secured millions of dollars in compensation for hundreds of victims of fires that burnt out communities across Victoria on Ash Wednesday in 1983 and Black Saturday on 7 February 2009 and is currently running class actions on behalf of victims of other recent fires and disasters.

Mr Pendergast invited flood victims to register with Maddens Lawyers, to ensure they were kept up to date on the firm’s investigations into the legal implications of the flood.

“Registering isn’t necessarily a commitment to take action – it is, however, an excellent way to remain informed about what is being looked in to, what information is coming to hand and what options are available in relation to litigation,” Mr Pendergast explained.

Mr Pendergast encouraged anyone who was interested in knowing what options they may have to contact Maddens by phoning the firm tollfree on 1800 815 228, or by going online to register at