Has leftie law firm Maurice Blackburn taken two long to pay out compensation to victims of the Black Saturday bush fires after running two successful class actions on their behalf, all the while lining its own pockets? That’s certainly the angle The Australian been pushing of late, driven by the frustrations of some of the firm’s clients.

On Monday, the Oz’s Hedley Thomas quoted a leaked July 7 update to clients that dismissed many of the concerns around the delays. The Oz quoted senior partner Josh Bornstein saying the firm had been subjected to a “smear campaign” by The Australian.

A tipster reckons Bornstein has a point. The very last line of Thomas’ piece quotes a Friday ruling by the Victorian Supreme Court, which said there had been an “impressive quickening in the pace of processing”. But if you go to the judgment, judge Jack Forrest had a lot more to say on the issue. In fact, the whole judgment focused on whether Maurice Blackburn had taken too long to pay out, following complaints by survivors of the fires. In his ruling, Forrest extensively addressed the issue of the delays, but largely found nothing amiss, saying the delay wasn’t unusual compared to other class action schemes, and was necessary in order to achieve an “equitable and cost efficient distribution” among the litigants.

Forrest said the fact that there could be a distribution of payouts by the first quarter of 2017 was “commendable”, and while he suggested other ways the payment distribution could have been sped up, concluded they had not been viable options.

“What is important is endeavouring to minimise the delay, but at the same time ensuring that the assessment process is carried out fairly. For my part, I am satisfied that has occurred here.”

To date, this hasn’t been reported in the Oz. 

Peter Fray

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