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Bushfire victims lodge class action against SA Power Networks

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EXCLUSIVE | Victims of a bushfire that swept through the lower Yorke Peninsula in November leaving a trail of property damage have launched a class action against SA Power Networks, which has conceded its infrastructure was “the most likely source” of the blaze.

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Authorities said at the time it was “remarkable” there were no fatalities after a bushfire swept through more than 4500 hectares, leaving 11 properties destroyed or impacted and 33 people injured during “unprecedented” conditions.

At the time, Yorketown incident controller Richard de Groot told media “an electrical infrastructure issue adjacent to town” was the likely cause, saying: “It is a result of a power network fault.”

InDaily can reveal Melbourne law firm Maddens Lawyers, which has previously litigated several bushfire claims including for victims of Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday blazes, has lodged a statement of claim in the SA Supreme Court against the state’s electricity distributor.

The claim is lodged on behalf of Carlos Alberto Costa Cordosa, whose Yorketown home was destroyed in the blaze.

He told NewsCorp at the time of the fire: “The house was melting, there is no floor, big cracks in the walls… everything’s gone.”

But Kathryn Emeny, principal at Maddens Lawyers, told InDaily the firm had “recently commenced a class action in relation to the [Yorke Peninsula] fire”, with the action open to “anyone that suffered property loss and damage or personal injury as a result of that fire”.

A statement of claim lodged in the Supreme Court alleges SA Power Networks, as owner and operator of a local distribution powerline adjacent to a water tower located at Stansbury Road, “caused electricity, heat or sparks to be ejected from the powerlines onto flammable material on the ground … and thereby caused the ignition of the Yorketown bushfire”.

The claim states the applicant “brings this claim in a representative capacity on behalf of all those persons who have suffered personal injury and/or loss of or damage to property and/or economic loss as a result of a fire which commenced on 20 November 2019 at Yorketown”.

“The causes of action relied on are: Negligence; Breach of statutory duty [and] Nuisance,” the claim states.

“As at the time of the commencement of this proceeding there are two or more group members.”

In a statement, SA Power Networks said it “acknowledges the most likely source of the fire start was a component of our electricity Infrastructure”.

“The specific cause of failure is likely to be the focus of legal proceedings and this prevents us from making further comment,” it said.

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