Thousands more likely to join Black Saturday class action
More than 10,000 victims of the Kilmore East-Kinglake Black Saturday bushfire could take part in the class action against the electricity company deemed responsible for the deadly blaze, a court has heard.
Victoria's Supreme Court was told on Friday that although 1900 people had so far registered with law firm Maurice Blackburn for the class action, there were many more potential claimants.
But barrister Lachlan Armstrong, representing the victims, made an application to the court to limit the number of people captured in the class action.
At the moment, the class action over the Kilmore East fire is an open class, meaning those affected do not need to register to reap any benefit from the outcome of the forthcoming trial.
But he has asked Justice Forrest to close the class, so people will have to register, more clearly identifying the number of victims involved.
The trial for the class action - which is Victoria’s biggest civil case - is due to begin in March.
Mr Armstrong told Justice Forrest those already registered, between 900 and 1000 had personal injury claims and another 1000 had property claims and economic loss.
He said another 4000 had been identified in data from insurance claims as having as suffered losses.
There was also an unknown number of people who were not insured and suffered physical or psychological injury or property and economic loss as a result of the bushfire.
"The total estimate of people who may make claims as part of this proceeding is 10,500 people," Mr Armstrong said.
The victims involved come from five municipalities - Nillumbik, Mitchell, Yarra Ranges, Whittlesea and Murrindindi.
The legal action is being brought against electricity company SP AusNet, trading as SPI Electricity, who owned and had responsibility for maintaining of the power lines that caused the blaze on February 7, 2009.
The fire claimed more lives than any other bushfire in Australia's history, with 119 people killed, 1242 homes destroyed and a total of 125,383 hectares burned.
The Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission found the blaze was caused by a faulty powerline owned and maintained by the electricity company, trading as SP AusNet.
The total losses sustained in the bushfire was estimated at the Royal Commission hearings as high as $1 billion.
Justice Forrest heard that mediation was held between the parties late last year but were unsuccessful in reaching a resolution, so the matter was going to trial.
SP AusNet has vowed to ‘‘vigorously defend’’ the class action, which centres on claims relating to the inspection and maintenance of its assets.
The trial is expected to last six months.