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Victims of Black Saturday bushfire sue power company
08/08/2012 - A Victorian man who lost his family, home and business in the Marysville Black Saturday bushfire will lead a multimillion-dollar class action against an electricity company whose powerline is blamed for starting the blaze. Daniel Fogarty
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Rod Liesfield's wife Elizabeth and their sons James, 14, and Matthew, 13, were killed in the February 2009 fire.
His Marysville home and business were also destroyed by the devastating blaze.
Liesfield, 58, will lead a Victorian Supreme Court class action against electricity company SP AusNet, on behalf of the hundreds of people affected by the Marysville/Murrindindi bushfire which killed 40 people and destroyed more than 500 homes.
The damages claim may run into hundreds of millions of dollars, lawyers for the plaintiffs say.
In a writ filed on Tuesday, it is alleged the fire started because of a SP AusNet powerline that was poorly maintained.
It is alleged inspections of the pole failed to detect or report damage to a stay wire and failed to notice the inadequate distance between a stay wire and a conductor.
Lawyer Andrew Watson from Maurice Blackburn said he believed there was a strong claim against SP AusNet.
"It is plain that with 40 deaths and more than 500 homes burned, the scale of those losses is going to be very significant, running into the tens and perhaps hundreds of millions," he said.
Watson said the case would be an opt-out class action that was "on behalf of all of the victims of the Murrindindi fire".
The personal impact on Liesfield had been devastating, he said.
"He lost his family in the fire. He lost his home. He lost his business," Watson said.
"Just an unbelievable tragedy, but of course as we know multiplied manyfold throughout Victoria as a result of the events of that day."
SP AusNet is already facing legal action over the Kilmore East fire which killed 119 people.
In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Monday, SP AusNet said it had been provided with limited access to a report by Victoria Police to the coroner that implicated its electricity assets in the ignition of the Murrindindi fire.
"SP AusNet has not yet had an opportunity to review the materials upon which the views expressed in the report are based," the statement said.
"As presently informed, SP AusNet does not accept that its assets were involved in the ignition of the Murrindindi fire.
"SP AusNet maintains insurance that it believes is appropriate to protect against bushfire and other major operating risks."
Tuesday's writ also names the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Country Fire Authority and the State of Victoria.
It alleges the organisations failed in their duty to warn the public.
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J.O. | 8/08/2012 11:12 1
What about suing the ones who stopped burning off? And stopped cattle grazing in the high country?
R. Stewart | 8/08/2012 21:35 2
My sympathy to the victums However You need 3 things for fire, fuel, oxygen and ignition. The power company provided 1, ignition. Greenies and bureaucrats are responsible for stopping controlled burnoffs, hence supplied the fuel. God provided the oxygen, perhaps sue god like Billy Conolly
sylvia | 9/08/2012 12:32 3
I can't believe the callousness in R.Stewart's words. He trivialises the grossness of the fire with "..sue god like Billy Conolly." Power companies have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their equipment/apparatus and regardless of the need for controlled burn-offs, etc to minimise the fuel, if the powerlines were the ignition source then the negligent must pay. It is the only way to make people/companies responsible for their actions or n this case, inaction. My heart goes out to those that lost more than money can buy. I hope the victims believe that R.Stewart's callousness is in the minority.
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