Shine Lawyers files multi-site class action for PFAS contamination, impacting 40,000 Australians
15 April 2020
National law firm Shine Lawyers has today filed a multi-site class action in the Federal Court against the Department of Defence alleging that more than 40,000 residents across Australia have been exposed to toxic chemicals used on military bases.
Residents of Wagga Wagga, Richmond (NSW), Wodonga (VIC), Darwin (NT), Townsville (QLD), Edinburgh (SA) and Bullsbrook (WA) have allegedly been exposed to poisonous chemicals found in fire-fighting foam used by military personnel, which have permeated land and water supplies, food sources, and bloodstreams, with cataclysmic consequences.
The multi-site class action has been filed to compensate residents for significant drops in property prices.
“Today’s action has been launched for tens of thousands of victims exposed to PFAS as a result of the Government negligence,” said Shine Lawyers’ Special Counsel, Joshua Aylward.
Both Shine-led, and independent research has revealed that PFAS chemicals amass and persist in the environment and the PFAS levels in these towns are of serious concern.
“In some instances, property owners have seen the value of their land decrease by more than 50 per cent,”
“We’re fighting to adequately compensate these property owners so they are not stuck living on contaminated land,” said Mr Aylward.
“Every aspect of residents’ lives is impacted by this contamination. These toxins are permeating the environment around them, with high levels found in rivers and creeks, livestock, crops, drinking water, and in people’s blood. Property prices are plummeting as a result of this contamination.”
Exposure to these toxic chemicals has been linked to birth defects, some cancers, liver changes, raised cholesterol levels and heart disease among others.
“For Shine Lawyers and the people affected by PFAS, this action is about continuing to hold the Government accountable for failing residents and putting their lives at risk,” said Mr Aylward.
“We will vigorously prosecute this case to protect property owners and to ensure that they cannot be further harmed by this dangerous and toxic chemical.”
The action is an open class action, meaning that residents affected are automatically involved unless they elect to opt out of the action at a later date.
The lead applicant of the multi-site action, Reannan Haswell, moved to Bullsbrook ten years ago with her partner Beaux Tilley. They hold serious concerns for the safety of their family and the value of their property.
“We moved here in 2010 with our family expecting to set up a better life here and now we’ve lost our hope of that happening in Bullsbrook,” said Ms Haswell.
“Now we’re in a position where we’re afraid to let our children drink or bathe from our water supply, and we’re trapped on the property with little or no value as a result of our exposure to PFAS,” partner, Mr Tilley added.
“We can’t grow our property to suit our growing family’s needs. We can’t even renovate, we can’t even put in a pool,”
“We’re encouraged by Shine Lawyers’ success in the Oakey/Katherine Class Action and want to see the Government held to account for its role in contaminating our town,” said Tilley.
About the class action:
The action was filed in the Federal Court of NSW under Haswell & Anor v Commonwealth of Australia
The action against the Department of Defence automatically involves 40,000 residents.
The Department of Defence will be expected to file its defence within months.
It is funded by LCM (Litigation Capital Management)
PFAS chemicals were present in firefighting foam used by the Department of Defence in training facilities across Australia since the 1970s. The chemicals have contaminated local environments negatively impacting residents, their land and their livelihood. The Department of Defence has commenced investigations into other sites across Australia.
On the 26th of February 2020, Shine Lawyers reached an agreement with the Department of Defence, successfully achieving justice for the Oakey and Katherine communities affected by PFAS. The settlement of $212.5 million will be divided amongst the impacted landowners, following approval by the Federal Court.
Following the successful Katherine and Oakey PFAS Contamination Class Actions, Shine Lawyers' Class Action team are seeking justice for landowners whose properties are located in a number of other Defence contamination investigation areas across Australia.
For more information visit shine.com.au/pfas