The Wilderness Society paid $325,000 and exonerated after four years in the Victorian Supreme Court, when a settlement is reached with Gunns

17 March 2009

The Wilderness Society yesterday reached a settlement with Gunns Ltd, after four years of contentious litigation in the Victorian Supreme Court.  As part of the agreed settlement, Gunns will pay the Wilderness Society $325,000 despite initially suing the NGO for $3.5 million.

Maurice Blackburn Partner, who lead the Wilderness Society's legal team, Josh Bornstein said that the outcome was the latest chapter in an extraordinary history of legal folly commenced by Gunns in 2004.

"In 2004, Gunns Ltd launched a civil suit against the Wilderness Society, its officers and members of the conservation movement claiming millions of dollars in damages. Gunn's alleged that The Wilderness Society and others had caused significant economic loss by reason of various protest activities allegedly undertaken.  The case has been vigorously defended.

"The first three versions of Gunns case were thrown out because they were essentially incomprehensible," Mr Bornstein said.

"Now, all these years later, version number 4 has been settled by Gunns agreeing to a substantial payment to the Wilderness Society. I am not sure what the cost/benefit analysis is going to look like when Gunns next updates its shareholders.

"In my view, the case against my client has been a colossal waste of time, money and of the resources of the Supreme Court," Mr. Bornstein said.

However, there are seven remaining defendants out of the original 20 still before the Victorian Supreme Court.   Claims against others, Bob Brown and Peg Putt, have been dropped or settled in last four years.

"It is most unusual that to see the plaintiff to reach an out of court settlement with the defendants, and agree to pay them compensation," Mr. Bornstein said.

Details of settlement:

  • Gunns discontinues case against The Wilderness Society and its
    (former) officers, Alec Marr, Leanne Minshull and Heidi Douglas
  • Gunns will release The Wilderness Society from liability from all 
    actions in any version of the statement of claim
  • Gunns will pay The Wilderness Society $325,000 (net):
  • The Wilderness Society will pay Gunns $25K in damages for a 
    protest in the Styx Valley November 2003.

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