UK & World News

  • 20 May 2014, 12:27

Bushfire Victims Blame Tree In $200m Lawsuit

Devastating bushfires that destroyed 200 homes and damaged many more in Australia could have been started by a single tree falling on a power line, it has been claimed.

Now victims of the fires which tore across the Blue Mountains outside Sydney are planning a $200m (110m) class action against an energy provider for failing to maintain the tree properly.

Lawyers for the victims claim Endeavour Energy inspectors spotted the tree was "hazardous" in the months before the fires last October.

The company ordered the property owner to trim the tree and make it safe but it allegedly failed to follow up on the order.

About 150 people affected by the fire have so far joined a class action to sue the energy infrastructure firm in the NSW Supreme Court.

"We believe there are five to six hundred people affected and we believe the total quantum of loss is going to be in the order of $200 million," lawyer Brendan Pendergast said.

"We're seeking compensation for anyone who suffered an injury - and that could be a psychological as well as a physical injury."

The blaze is alleged to have started after the tree at a private property on Linksview Road in Springwood fell in windy conditions last October and struck the power line.

The resulting bushfires were the worst in New South Wales since the 1960s, and two deaths were attributed to the blazes.

Hundreds of volunteer firefighters battled for days to bring the blazes under control in dry, hot and windy conditions.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met some of the victims as part of their tour of Australia last month.

A directions hearing is expected to be held in the Supreme Court in August and the case, if it proceeds, could last two years.

The fires are currently the subject of a coronial inquiry.

A spokesman for Endeavour Energy told the AAP news agency: "We understand the devastating impact bushfires have on people and property and are committed to doing what we can to keep people safe.

"We understand the NSW Rural Fire Service preliminary investigations indicate the Linksview Road, Springwood, fire was started by a large tree falling across power lines during high winds."

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