News & Media

2009 Bushfires Litigation Update

By: Mick Bourke

  11.00 AM 10 September, 2013

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Kilmore East trial
As you may be aware the Kilmore East class action has been running since 4 March 2013.

The court is currently hearing SPI’s defence, which commenced on 8 May and is expected to run until the end of September. The court has so far heard from SPI witnesses in relation to the electricity case; however we expect SPI to address its case against the State parties including CFA shortly.

This week, it is anticipated SPI will be tendering a number of statements and hearing transcripts from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission including statements and transcripts of evidence given by CFA members to the Royal Commission. Also a further week of mediation has been scheduled for 16 to 20 September. Court-ordered mediation commenced in July however was deferred until September to allow time for the independent mediator to gather more information.
UAM (SPI’s line maintenance contractor) will present their case after SPI and are expected to take one week. 
This means, on the current timetable, CFA is expected to commence presenting its evidence in mid-October until early November. There will then be a break in this evidence to allow for the hearing of other expert evidence. CFA’s evidence will recommence in late January. 
I am aware that many CFA members have generously given their time, including participating in long witness interviews with our lawyers, to assist with CFA’s defence. A number of you continue to assist us and will give evidence in court. I cannot overstate the value of our members’ assistance to CFA’s defence.
You may recall the court earlier dismissed the allegation that CFA failed to suppress the fire. Only through interviews with members to receive their recollection of events were we able to convey the outstanding job our firefighters did on the day, resulting in the dismissal of that allegation. 
Thank you to each and every member who has helped, and continues to help CFA. I very much appreciate your time and effort. 
To anyone who may have concerns about the trial, I wish to emphasise that CFA has support services available for both members and their family. You can contact your local Peer Coordinator, call the Member Assistance Program on 1300 795 711, or Chaplaincy Program on 1800 337 068.

Settlement of Harkaway civil action
I am very pleased to advise that an offer of settlement has been accepted by the plaintiffs in the Harkaway action. CFA was joined to this action by the defendant, who caused the fire alleged to have resulted in the loss and damage to the properties of sixteen plaintiffs. Agreement was reached between the parties with no liability attributed to CFA.
Thank you to all who assisted with CFA’s defence of this action. 
Murrindindi class action 
In my previous update I advised the court had ordered the Murrindindi class action was to not proceed in any meaningful fashion until Kilmore East had been resolved. However, the judge recently ordered the progression of Murrindindi, with a tentative trial date set for June 2014.
At this stage, CFA is still in the process of document discovery, which involves collecting and reviewing all relevant documents. The Bushfires Litigation Team has been in contact with members for assistance in this respect. We have not yet begun to interview CFA members. 
More information regarding litigation arising out the 2009 bushfires can be found on the Intranet or  Brigades Online by following these links after logging in: About CFA / 2009 Fires – Ongoing Legal Actions.
Once again, I thank everybody who has assisted CFA in defending these proceedings so far, and I’ll continue to keep you informed.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015