On 2 July 2021, the Court of Appeal of Western Australia handed down its decision on the 2014 Parkerville bushfire case.
That case had been the subject of appeal after Western Power had not been found liable for the losses caused by the bushfire in the original trial. This was notable for being the first WA Supreme Court trial to be live-streamed on the internet.
The Court of Appeal found that Western Power was liable for 50% of the losses caused by the fire. It apportioned the remaining liability at 35% to Ventia and 15% to the owner of the property.
Western Power was found negligent in the Court of Appeal, because it did not have a system of periodic inspection of the “point of attachment” poles which supported its electrical apparatus.
The pole in question in this case belonged to the owner of the property where the fire started.
The Court of Appeal judgment noted “… in our view, a reasonable operator would have undertaken periodic inspections of wooden poles more than 15 years old, especially in rural areas where there was an elevated risk of bushfires. The risk of harm was foreseeable and known.”
Significantly, the Court of Appeal decision means that:
As a result of this decision, any asset owner, whether a public authority like a local government or a private individual or company, should:
Western Power has applied for special leave to appeal to the High Court. We now wait to see whether the High Court will allow Western Power to appeal. And if so, whether any other parties will cross-appeal and whether the above outcomes will be overturned.
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