$18m bushfire settlement is fair, judge

$18m bushfire settlement is fair, judge | Insurance Business

$18m bushfire settlement is fair, judge
The $18 million settlement for a Blue Mountains bushfire lawsuit was “fair and reasonable” and very much in the interests of the hundreds of victims, an NSW Supreme Court judge has found.

Justice Clifton Hoeben said the most compelling reason for provisionally approving the proposed settlement was the plaintiffs’ poor prospects of proving Endeavour Energy’s liability, AAP reported.

The class action led by resident Sean Johnston claimed that Endeavour failed to remove a rotting acacia tree that fell on the power lines and sparked the 2013 bushfire, razing 194 houses and destroying 3600 hectares of land in the suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee, Yellow Rock, and Springwood, the report said.

"At no time did Endeavour or any of its contractors detect the fact that the tree was rotten and therefore at substantially increased risk of falling and falling onto the powerlines," Hoeben said.

The decision to settle the case, which involved 779 other bushfire victims, came in February under a different NSW Supreme Court judge. The proposal said Endeavour should pay the $18m in settlement without admission of liability. A number of insurers were also involved in the case as the amount would also cover payments to uninsured victims, AAP said.

Hoeben also cited the evidence indicating the tree had internal rot which could not be seen by looking at the tree, and would have required more testing. AAP said experts were conflicted whether there would be some visual trigger to warrant such additional testing.

"The conclusion I have reached is that had the trial proceeded to judgment, it was unlikely that Mr. Johnston would have succeeded in establishing liability," Hoeben said.

It was yet unknown if any of the group members objected to the proposed settlement. The case was adjourned to 26 September, said AAP.