On Friday 25 September 1998 an explosion and fire at the Longford gas plant tragically killed two men and injured eight workers. The explosion also resulted in a two-week gas supply shutdown for much of the state of Victoria causing massive losses for Victorian businesses, employees who were stood down and consumers. Many businesses were forced to do without their gas fuelled equipment and machinery. Damage to the economy was estimated at more than $500 million.
Maurice Blackburn, together with other firms commenced a class action against multi-national oil and gas producer Esso. The class action was brought on behalf of Victorian businesses, workers and domestic users who suffered financial loss due to the Longford gas explosion in 1998.
The Class Action went to trial in the Supreme Court between 4 September and 20 November 2002. The Supreme Court handed down its decision on 20 February 2003. Under the decision, businesses which suffered property damage or economic loss flowing from property damage were able to recover their losses. The Court decided that other claimants, such as domestic gas users and stood-down workers, were unable to recover their losses.
In June 2003, the Court ordered that any business which suffered compensable loss and which wished to pursue its claim against Esso file a Notice of Claim with the Court before 1 September 2003.
The class action settled in December 2004 for $32.5million which is payable only to the businesses suffering property damage, or other loss flowing from property damage. These were the parties successful at the trial.
Under the settlement, businesses which suffered property damage or economic loss flowing from property damage are able to recover their losses. Under the settlement, there was no appeal against the Supreme Court's decision on behalf of unsuccessful group members. The settlement monies were distributed to group members in 2005.