Time is running out for victims of last year’s Margaret River bushfires to sign up for a class action after national law firm Slater & Gordon today announced it was on the verge of launching proceedings.
The firm announced it had received sufficient interest to launch the class action against the WA Government’s Department of Environment and Conservation in relation to the fires which broke out on November 23 and 24, 2011.
The fires, which began as a prescribed burn lit by the DEC, raged out of control and caused considerable damage to properties in the coastal areas west of Margaret River, including Prevelly and Gnarabup.
Perth bushfire litigation lawyer Kevin Banks-Smith, who is working with Slater & Gordon as a consultant on the matter, said the DEC needed to be held responsible for damage caused by the fires.
“Our investigations indicate that responsibility for the fires lies with the DEC.” Mr Banks-Smith said.
“If someone loses their house and their possessions because of a fire you deliberately start, then we take the view that you are fully responsible for all their losses, not just a part of them.”
Slater & Gordon general manager for commercial and project litigation, James Higgins, said the closure of the WA Government’s RiskCover assessment scheme last week meant residents and homeowners would soon be fully aware of the shortfall they face.
The feedback we have received from homeowners is that the RiskCover scheme, whilst obviously better than nothing, provided an arbitrary measure of the damage inflicted by the fires,” Mr Higgins said.
The scheme also fails to compensate residents and homeowners for the loss of amenity and decline in property values which have resulted from these fires.”
The class action will be launched on behalf of affected individuals who have retained Slater & Gordon to act for them in this matter.
The use of a class action format will be a first for litigation of this type in Western Australia. Slater & Gordon will be acting for clients on a No-Win, No-Fee basis.
Anyone with an interest in the proceeding will have until Friday, 5 October 2012 to sign up.
Proceedings will be launched in the Supreme Court of Western Australia soon after that date.
Individuals who have not yet contacted Slater & Gordon but wish to make a claim in the proceeding should call 1800 287 114 or email WABushFiresClassAction@slatergordon.com.au as soon as possible.