King & Wood Mallesons

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Victoria victorious — abalone class action dismissed

By Mandi Jacobson and Peta Stevenson

The factual scenario underlying the abalone class action had many of the hallmarks of a profitable class action enterprise — a single ‘contravening act’ that caused loss to multiple parties on a mass scale, with causation provable without reference to uncertain, individual evidence. The recent dismissal of the claim, however, highlights the particular difficulties found in class actions advancing environmental claims founded in negligence. The decision to dismiss the claim, which was funded by Omni Bridgeway, has not been appealed.

In 2010, Maurice Blackburn commenced proceedings on behalf of a closed class of 194 group members associated with 44 abalone fishery access licences. The plaintiff alleged that the State of Victoria and Southern Ocean Mariculture negligently allowed the release of a herpes-like virus from an abalone aquaculture farm operated by Southern Ocean Mariculture to the wild abalone population, causing loss and damage to the group members.

While a settlement was reached with Southern Ocean Mariculture just prior to the scheduled September 2013 trial date, the trial against the Victorian government and related entities proceeded…

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