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Michael Eburn
Michael Eburn
Dr Michael Eburn received his PhD from Monash University, Melbourne on Australia's domestic arrangements for managing an international disaster response. He is a leading expert in the law relating to emergency management and the emergency services.


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Post bushfire litigation

Nov. 7, 2011 12:35 am
Categories: Fire

In a paper that has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Wildland Fire I have reviewed incidents of post bushfire litigation as well as non-litigated claims made against the NSW Rural Fire Service in the period 1989 to 2010.

I concluded that:

Today, routine fires continue to be dealt with without frequent litigation although there is a constant stream of claims for compensation arising from fires. On the other hand, significant fire events, such as the 2009 Black Saturday fires, trigger litigation almost before the fires are extinguished (Matthews v SPI Electricity &Utility Services Corporation (No. 1) [2011] VSC 167; Orr 2011 ).

The reference to Orr is to the story 'Insurers sue over fires' from WA Today (10 October 2011).  This is not litigation against the fire authorities (at least not yet- The Black Saturday litigation did not start against the fire authorities either, but against the electrical supply authorities, but the fire agencies have been brought in by defendants trying to shift the costs to others, so that could happen here as well.) Rather this litigation is against the individual alleged to have accidentally started the 2011 Perth Hills fire but it does confirm my theory that post-fire litigation, especially after major events, may be a more common feature of the legal and fire fighting landscape.

Michael Eburn

7 November 2011

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