Class action settlement denies plaintiffs judge’s verdict 

ALMOST four years after the Weerite-Pomborneit Black Saturday fire, and 21 days of a Supreme Court compensation case, it was all over in a matter of minutes.

The class action agreement, estimated to be worth about $10 million, was reached moments before Justice Jack Forrest was due to deliver his judgment in the Warrnambool Supreme Court yesterday.

Lead plaintiff and Pomborneit fire brigade captain Terry Place said a settlement reached by his legal team and the counsel representing Powercor did not bring closure to the events of February 7, 2009 — but “it was a start”.

There were few days of the hearing missed by Mr Place, his friends and other members of the class action. 

Yesterday, he said the experience had been stressful not just for him but also the Weerite and Pomborneit communities.

“I’m normally a pretty good sleeper but I’ve had a fair few sleepless nights,” he said. 

“It has been hard but it happens to people all over the country, different things like this.

“Hopefully it’s a start of the finishing of the process.”

Mr Place said it would have been good to hear Justice Jack Forrest make a determination, but he was happy to see 100 per cent of damages paid.

“We’re happy with it, but it still doesn’t cover everything,” he said.

“There are certain losses that you never get back but it’s a pretty reasonable result, I think.”

Like most, it was the first time Mr Place had ever been in a courtroom and he said he had been impressed with the process.

“To sit there nearly every day for five weeks, it’s an eye-opener. The only disappointing part was not to hear the judgment at the finish but I think we got the judgment which was good enough for us.”

Weerite resident Bob Hewitt said he was “thrilled to bits” with the settlement if it meant more care would be taken by power companies.

“Only so far as the fact that in the future they will maintain their lines better than what they have in the past,” he said.

“They’ve been put on notice. The money is only secondary.”

Weerite residents Scott and Rachael Johnstone said there was a sense of relief that an agreement had been reached.

“We’re both very appreciative of the work our solicitors and barristers have put in,” Mr Johnstone said.

“It’s a long process given the amount of time Terry and his wife Jo put in while their business basically stood still.”

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