Black Saturday bushfire victims agree $300m settlement with AusNet

Black Saturday bushfire victims agree $300m settlement with AusNet

05 February 2015

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Australia — Power group AusNet has reached a $300m settlement with the victims of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.

40 people died and up to 5,000 homes were destroyed in the Murrindindi bushfire, which was believed to have been started by a fault in an electrical conductor on a power pole.

A class action brought on behalf of the Marysville victims was due to begin on Friday.

But lawyers told Victorian supreme court justice John Dixon a settlement had been reached.

“Perhaps it’s the best for victims and the Victorian community to have a settlement rather than prolonged proceedings,” Dixon told the court.

“The savings are substantial, not just legal costs, but emotional too.”

The matter was adjourned so a notice of settlement could be provided to those in the class action and the court.

The terms of the settlement include no admission of liability by AusNet or other parties to the action.

“AusNet Services maintains that there was no negligence on the part of AusNet Services which caused, or contributed to, the Murrindindi bushfire, nor any of the other Black Saturday fires,” it said in a statement.

Under the $300m settlement, which includes costs, AusNet Services will contribute $260.9m, Victorian state parties $29.1m and Utility Services Corporation $10m.

The total losses suffered by those affected by the Murrindindi bushfire have not been finalised.

“It is estimated that the contribution agreed to be made by AusNet Services through its insurers is approximately half such total losses and costs,” the company said.

AusNet has been a defendant in three separate class actions arising from the Murrindindi catastrophe and Friday’s agreement concludes all of those actions.

The company remains a party to two smaller bushfire class actions related to fires that occurred in February 2014.

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