I have previously reported that the ACT Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss all claims against NSW over its response to the fires that started on 8 January 2003 and burned into Canberra on 18 January 2003 (‘ACT Court of Appeal upholds verdict in favour of NSW over Canberra 2003 bushfires, (November 3, 2014)).
An appeal to the Court of Appeal is the final step unless someone seeks to take the matter to the High Court of Australia. An appeal to the High Court is not a ‘right’, rather a party needs to persuade the court that there is a legal issue that demands the Court’s attention – that is the Court needs to grant ‘leave’ to allow a party to appeal. The ABC has reported that one of the litigants in this matter, Wayne West, has decided not to pursue an application for leave to appeal to the High Court – ‘Canberra 2003 bushfires victim gives up fight for damages from NSW Government’ ABC Online, 29 November 2014. (I apologise for the delay in reporting this, but I’m catching up on news from the summer break – see also ‘Further legal ruling affecting ‘Doctors as ‘good Samaritans’ – do I have to stop?’ (January 3, 2015)). There’s never been any suggestion that the other litigant, QBE Insurance, would seek to take the matter to the High Court so I think it’s safe to say that the litigation over these fires has now, finally, been resolved.
If that is the case then the final outcome was that the ACT paid some money to settle the matter even though they settled on the basis that there was a ‘verdict for the defendant’ (‘Canberra bushfire litigation settles against the ACT’ (September 20, 2012)). The State of NSW was found to have been negligent by the Supreme Court, but was not liable because of provisions that protect the fire services from liability for acts performed in good faith. The finding of negligence was set aside by the Court of Appeal with the result that NSW was exonerated from any legal blame for the fires or their consequences.