Kilmore ‘Black Saturday’ Bushfire class action launched against SPI Electricity Limited

19 June 2010
Leading class action lawyers Maurice Blackburn in conjunction with Oldham Naidoo Lawyers have lodged a Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court of Victoria against SPI Electricity Limited for inadequate maintenance standards which led to the Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire.

Updated

Leading class action lawyers Maurice Blackburn in conjunction with Oldham Naidoo Lawyers have lodged a Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court of Victoria against SPI Electricity Limited for inadequate maintenance standards which led to the Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire.

The action alleges that at approximately 11:45am on 7 February 2009, a 1.1 kilometre SPI Electricity Limited powerline broke in Kilmore East, causing the fire which quickly spread. 

The fire resulted in 119 deaths, the destruction of 1242 homes, damage to 530 homes and the devastation of  75,744 hectares of land.

Maurice Blackburn alleges in the Statement of Claim that SPI Electricity Limited failed to:

  • fit a $10 protective device called a 'vibration damper' on the powerline which contributed to it breaking;
  • properly inspect and maintain the 43 year old powerline which was also unusually long at 1.1 kilometres.  This powerline was stretched across a valley in a recognised high bushfire risk area; and
  • have an adequate system of replacing old powerlines before they break.

Maurice Blackburn Chairman Bernard Murphy said: "We have heard strong evidence at the Royal Commission that SPI Electricity Limited could have taken a number of steps to prevent the devastating Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire."

In November last year, the Commission heard that the powerline that ignited the Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire was not fitted with a vibration damper as a result of SPI Electricity Limited's policy not to fit them to existing powerlines, even though they are much more likely to break than new ones.

"Electricity distribution companies are commercial enterprises that have a responsibility to ensure that public safety is not compromised simply in order to keep costs down," said Mr Bernard Murphy.

"SPI Electricity Limited's failures have had very tragic consequences."

To date, more than 1300 people who have suffered injury, loss or damage as a result of Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire have registered their interest in the class action.  Over 600 of these people have signed up to the class action.

Background

Practice Areas: