Record settlement gets go-ahead for Kinglake bushfire survivors

23 December 2014
Thousands of members of the Kilmore East – Kinglake Black Saturday bushfire class action overcame an important final hurdle in securing compensation for the impact of the deadly fire, after the Supreme Court today approved the record settlement of nearly $500 million.

Justice Osborn today announced that the settlement amount, and the distribution scheme proposed by managing lawyers Maurice Blackburn, met all the requirements to gain Court approval.

Given the extremely large number of group members and the need to fairly but efficiently assess each group member’s individual claims, Justice Osborn said he was satisfied that the 18-month timeframe for full assessment and distribution was a good guideline.

Senior Associate Rory Walsh from Maurice Blackburn’s class actions team said of the intricate and complex settlement scheme the key elements the judge had considered and approved without amendment the overall financial sum, how that would be distributed based on individual assessments, and the systems the lawyers had in place in order to do that fairly but as expeditiously as possible.

“An assessment of this scale has never been attempted before in Australia, so it is a huge task but we are confident we have the process, experts and resources in place to do this as efficiently as possible, because we want to see group members compensated as soon as we can,” Mr Walsh said.

“Even with a team of assessors working tirelessly in evaluating claims as quickly as possible in order to get the approved compensation to people, the Court has recognised that we will need to fully process around 30 claims per day for 18 months.

“We will now set about ensuring we get on with this next phase of work involved in this case in order to get people their compensation as expeditiously as possible.”

Lead plaintiff Carol Matthews said the judgment provided a huge relief for her and other survivors of the fire.

“It is a huge relief to know that the Court has approved a settlement and that people will finally receive some compensation and justice for what we’ve all been through,” Ms Matthews said.

“Nothing will ever replace what we have lost, but today we have been vindicated for standing up for our rights and hopefully we’ve played an important role in ensuring large organisations adhere to higher standards in the interests of community safety.”