A judge has ruled contractor Thiess and a pensioner homeowner in the Perth hills were to blame for the 2014 Parkerville bushfire that destroyed 57 homes, The West Australian reports.
Justice Rene Le Miere ruled the termite-ridden power pole that fell over on the property was the responsibility of Theiss, the contractor and Noreen Campbell, whose property it stood on.
While the pole was on private land, it was connected to infrastructure owned by Western Power. However, Justice Le Miere found Western Power did not owe homeowners a direct duty of care to maintain the pole.
The class action, brought by Slater and Gordon on behalf of 189 residents has concluded after more than five years since the fire.
The damages for dozens of affected parties could reach into the tens of millions, of which Thiess was responsible for 70 per cent of, and Ms Campbell for 30 per cent. It’s understood her insurance company will pay her liability.
Related article: Powercor announces safety improvements since Black Saturday
Western Power said in a statement it acknowledges the difficulty of the case, which highlights the need for owners of private power poles to have a regular inspection program in place.
“Western Power acknowledges the findings delivered by Justice Rene Le Miere in the Supreme Court today in relation to the Parkerville bushfire litigation case,” Western Power said.
“We appreciate how difficult the trial has been, particularly for the community of Parkerville and those who gave evidence.
“The trial has been vital in helping to clearly define that the maintenance of privately owned power poles remains the responsibility of the land owners.
“The findings highlight the need for owners of private power poles to have in place a regular inspection program that makes sure their assets are in a safe and reliable condition.
“Advice on the maintenance of private power poles and of private networks is available on the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website.”
Slater and Gordon practice group leader Rory Walsh said he was delighted with the outcome.
“Over the last five years, our clients have had to fight long and hard to achieve this outcome. This was an entirely avoidable catastrophe and two of the three defendants have now been found liable and are now required to provide compensation to our clients,” Mr Walsh said.
“Western Power were fortunate to have avoided liability by sheeting responsibility home to its contractor, although that contractor was ultimately found to be negligent in its inspection of the pole. We are closely considering His Honour’s reasoning in this regard and will speak to our clients over the coming days about their options.”
Related article: EnergyAustralia explains reasons for blackouts