The residents of Oakey, Queensland, and Katherine, Northern Territory, are one step closer to justice with the announcement of new dates set for the PFAS trial in the Federal Court.
“We’re happy the court has set down dates for the trial which will bring these matters closer to a resolution. The sooner these matters can be resolved the better for the residents of Oakey and Katherine affected by PFAS contamination as they have been living in limbo for years. The residents of both towns have been exceptionally patient and resilient in waiting for this matter to come to a head.”
New two-stage trial dates
At a case management hearing on September 6, the new case management judge, Justice Michael Lee, ordered the matter be set down for trial in 2020 in a two-staged approach over 10 weeks.
The first stage, to be heard from April 1, 2020 to May 1, 2020, will hear matters relating to documentary and lay witness evidence with a view to determining factual matters in dispute between the parties (such as the use, containment and disposal of the firefighting foam) as well as legal issues that are common between the all three actions (Oakey, Katherine and Williamtown).
Justice Lee indicated he would endeavour to publish a judgment from that hearing within six weeks after that hearing.
The second stage – to be heard from November 30, 2020 to December 24, 2020 – is set to hear the remainder of the matters in dispute, which will largely relate to the amount of damages owed to the claimants.
Justice Lee has directed that a mediation take place for all three matters before the first stage hearing next year.
A further case management hearing will take place on September 27, 2019, when it’s anticipated Justice Lee will make further orders in respect of expert referees, mediation and the matters to be determined at the first stage hearing.
“The staged approach is a position which we advocated for and we are pleased to achieve this result as we believe it to be the most sensible and efficient way to finalise these proceedings,” says Joshua Aylward. “Details in respect of the date for the mediation, the mediator and the location are yet to be determined, but we are encouraged that the court has requested that the parties mediate before the trial.”
PFAS chemicals were present in firefighting foam used by the Department of Defence in training facilities across Australia since the 1970s. These chemicals have contaminated local environments, negatively impacting residents, their land and their livelihood.
Shine Lawyers' Class Actions Department has brought an action on behalf of individuals in both Oakey and Katherine who own, or have owned, residential and/or commercial property in the contaminated area. Shine Lawyers are seeking compensation for the economic loss suffered from a decline in value of residential, agricultural and/or business land due to the contamination.