Maddens Lawyers

2009 Black Saturday Bushfires



Maddens Lawyers has successfully led four Class Actions on behalf of the victims of a series of fires that burnt across Victoria on Saturday 7 February 2009 - colloquially known as the 'Black Saturday' bushfires.

Hundreds of victims of these fires from four different regions of country Victoria were successfully represented, with all four Class Actions being settled.

The administration of these class actions, including the valuation of losses to facilitate compensation payments, continues today.

Coloraine Bushfire

The Coleraine bushfire commenced when a tie wire broke on a single wire earth return line off Balochile Road west of Coleraine, causing a live conductor to become detached from a pole and arc with the branches of the nearby tree plantation, causing ignition. The tie wire which broke in two places failed as a result of metal fatigue caused by wind vibration, the unequal distance between spans and an inadequate inspection regime.

A post bushfire audit by Powercor identified other broken tie wires and loose pole caps on the line. In the years immediately preceding the Coleraine bushfire there had been several instances of the conductor on the same line becoming detached from poles due to broken tie wires.

The Coleraine Bushfire Class Action proceeding commenced by Maddens Lawyers on 13 March 2009, listed for hearing before His Honour Justice J Forrest in the Supreme Court at Hamilton on 16 April 2012, settled prior to the matter going to trial. Orders were made by Justice Forrest on 2 March 2012 for the "settlement agreement" to be publicised giving any person who suffered loss or damage to property as a consequence of the Coleraine Bushfire ("group members") an opportunity to oppose the terms of settlement agreed between the parties.

Orders were made by Justice Forrest on 2 March 2012 for the "settlement agreement" to be publicised giving any person who suffered loss or damage to property as a consequence of the Coleraine Bushfire ("group members") an opportunity to oppose the terms of settlement agreed between the parties.

The settlement agreement was extensively advertised and Maddens Lawyers personally consulted with group members, none of whom were opposed to the terms of settlement.

We are now pleased to confirm that on 29 March 2012 His Honour Justice Beach made Orders approving settlement of the Coleraine Bushfire Class Action. In concluding the settlement application hearing in the Supreme Court at Hamilton His Honour congratulated the lead Plaintiffs and Powercor Australia Limited on having reached agreement, describing the settlement as an "eminently sensible compromise of this proceeding".

Horsham Bushfire

The Horsham bushfire commenced as a result of three coach screws falling from a pole cap on the pole of a single wire earth return line off Remlaw Road, west of Horsham.

As a consequence, the live conductor arced with dry stubble, igniting a fire that affected over 300 properties, destroying many structures, hundreds of kilometres of fencing, numerous live stock, fodder and other assets. Preceding the bushfire the same conductor had become detached from an adjoining pole and a post bushfire audit by Powercor identified a number of other loose pole caps and broken tie wires on the same line.

Maddens Lawyers has issued a class action in the Supreme Court at Horsham.

Trial of the Horsham Bushfire Class action commenced before the Honourable Justice J. Forrest in the Supreme Court in Horsham on 5 September 2011. After a Trial over five weeks and involving over 30 lay and expert witnesses, the case settled on 13 October 2011.

We are now pleased to confirm that on 5 December 2011 His Honour Justice Beach made orders approving settlement of the Horsham Bushfire Class Action.

Maddens Lawyers is pleased to advise that in accordance with the orders of His Honour Justice Beach on 6 June 2016, we have now commenced the distribution of compensation to the group members whose claims have been resolved.

A copy of orders can be found here.

Weerite-Pomborneit Bushfire

The Pomborneit bushfire commenced on the south side of the Princes Highway just east of the Weerite overpass as a consequence of clashing high voltage conductors, between poles 927 and 928.

Burning aluminium particles caused by the arcing were blown by expulsion forces and the wind across the Princes Highway to ignite dry grass. The conductors were slack, poles leaned and no spreader bars had been inserted between conductors so as to ensure that they remained apart. There is ample evidence that similar clashing had occurred over decades.

We are now pleased to confirm that on 1 February 2013, the Honourable Justice Beach approvee settlement of the Weerite-Pomborneit Bushfire Class Action proceeding commenced by Maddens Lawyers.

Beechworth-Mudgegonga Bushfire

The Beechworth fire started when a tree fell onto a live high voltage conductor adjacent to Buckland Gap Road near the intersection with Library Road, causing the conductor to become dislodged from its insulator and cross arm and arc against a steel reinforced concrete pole. Sparks ejected as a result of the arc and ignited dry vegetation. The tree was a “hazardous tree” as defined by the power company SP Ausnet, and required immediate removal. The tree was never inspected by an Arborist or by a qualified line inspector and was not removed.

We are now pleased to confirm on 16 May 2012 The Honourable Justice Emmerton approved settlement of the Beechworth Bushfire Supreme Court class action proceeding commenced by Maddens Lawyers in April 2010.