Survivors of the deadliest Black Saturday bushfire have been awarded a record payout of nearly $500 million to be divided up over the next 18 months, it has been announced.
A Victorian Supreme Court judge approved the settlement of a class action suit brought by those affected by the bushfire which swept through the East Kilmore-Kinglake area in February 2009.
Believed to be the largest class action settlement in Australian legal history, the action was brought against power distributor SP AusNet, now known as AusNet Services, and asset managers Utility Services Group as the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission found the bushfire was caused by an ageing SP AusNet power line, according to ABC.
The blaze destroyed 125, 000 hectares of land and more than 1,000 homes killing 119 people and injuring many more.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, AusNet Services broke down the settlement and revealed that they are to pay $378.6 million whilst Victorian State Parties , including the Victorian Police and Department of Sustainability and Envorinment, will foot a $103.6 million bill while Utility Services Corporation will pay-out $12.5 million.
“AusNet Services’ liability insurers have paid all of AusNet Services’ contribution,” according to the statement.
The insurers involved are unknown.
“It is estimated that the contribution paid by AusNet Services’ insurers is between 22% and 35% of the total losses suffered and costs incurred by those affected by the Kilmore East Bushfire.
“The settlement was reached without admission of liability by AusNet Services or any other party.
“AusNet Services has liability insurance which specifically provides cover for bushfire liability. AusNet Services reviews its insurance cover annually and ensures it is commensurate with the scale and size of its operations, the risks assessed to be associated with its operations and with industry standards and practice.”
Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine confirmed to the ABC
that insurance would also cover the Government
"It won't affect our budget, won't affect our bottom line, will not affect services.
“This is a normal insurance procedure and our decision on this matter is based on the best legal and professional advice.”
Head of the class action department at Maurice Blackburn, the law-firm involved in the class action suit, Andrew Watson, told ABC
of the settlement: "No amount of money will ever compensate those who were affected by the fire for the losses they have suffered.”
"But this settlement of nearly $500 million, represents a measure of justice and some real compensation that will ease the financial burden of their suffering."