Class action could flow


By Tate Papworth

The lawyer responsible for settling the Cranbourne Landfill class action says there are some very similar circumstances to the Sunshine landfill issue.

In 2008, Slater and Gordon practice group leader Manisha Blencowe commenced a class action on behalf of hundreds of property owners whose properties had been affected by methane gas coming from a disused landfill in Cranbourne.

The action secured a settlement of $23.5M for home owners affected by the gas migrating from the closed landfill site and into a neighbouring housing estate.

Last week, Star Weekly revealed more than 80 properties could be impacted by the old Sunshine landfills, with many sitting on buried waste and are exposed to methane gas.

Ms Blencowe said residents impacted by the Sunshine landfill issue, particularly those in Denton Avenue, Karen Place and Toora Court near Energy Park, could have similar grounds for a claim.

“In the Cranbourne case the residents were successful on the grounds of negligence and nuisance.

“Compensation was awarded based on diminished value of the property, among other circumstances,” she said.

Ms Blencowe said potential restrictions on the use and development of land on the area would also impact property value and could be grounds for a claim.

She also said residents could have grounds for a nuisance claim if significant remediation works are required close to people’s homes.

One Denton Avenue resident, who did not wish to be named, told Star Weekly he was considering his legal options.

Property values aren’t the only concern for residents.

Slater and Gordon senior associate public liability Joseph Catoggio said anyone who contracts a debilitating condition should seek legal advice.

“If they have developed a respiratory condition, loss of equilibrium where their balance is affected or severe migraines that affect memory and concentration, these are conditions that would be deemed as significant,” Mr Catoggio said.

“A person is more likely to develop a health condition after slow exposure to chemicals. This is more likely to happen as a result of living there or working there every day for a considerable period of time.”

While there may be legal options available,  Mr Catoggio warned it may be too soon to act.

“It may be too early for health conditions to have emerged in residents living at the site,” he said.

“If we believe there are viable public liability claims, it would be because we are guided by government authorities who have undertaken testing showing a major risk.

“In order to establish a link between a health condition and chemicals in the ground below your home or business, you must prove you have a significant injury that is permanent as a result of the exposure.”

It may not be the only option for legal recourse.

Documents seen by Star Weekly reveal that the council could be liable for clean-up costs and remediation of the sites.

The council could also be liable for a claim of negligence, for failing to amend the Brimbank Planning Scheme since 1999 to disclose the location of the Sunshine landfills to innocent purchasers.