Potential class action law taking on the Andrews government over hotel quarantine failings that may have led to Victoria’s second wave.
Potential class action law taking on the Andrews government over hotel quarantine failings that may have led to Victoria’s second wave.

Class action brewing over hotel quarantine bungles

The fallout from the hotel quarantine fiasco is likely to end up in court with a leading class action firm already in discussion with businesses over a potential law suit.

The firm, Phi Finney and McDonald, said it had fielded inquiries by companies that have been hit hard during the second wave of coronavirus and associated lockdowns.

Managing director Ben Phi said that lawyers were now investigating the prospect of taking on the state government, which had "acknowledged that mistakes were made".

"The evidence suggests that quarantine failures led to the second wave and all of the devastating personal and financial consequences that have followed," he said.

A man decontaminates the steps of a quarantine hotel on August 11 after a young woman who walked out was taken away by paramedics. Picture: Ian Currie
A man decontaminates the steps of a quarantine hotel on August 11 after a young woman who walked out was taken away by paramedics. Picture: Ian Currie

"We have been approached by Victorian businesses who are interested in pursuing a class action. We are investigating the situation and following the evidence as it unfolds in the inquiry."

An inquiry into the hotel quarantine scheme, led by former Family Court judge Jennifer Coate, is probing failures that led to COVID-19 infections being spread between guests and security guards and into the community.

Allegations include that some guards in hotels were poorly trained and mingled with returned travellers, that guests were allowed out against protocols, and that limited infectious disease controls were in place.

The worst clusters that stemmed from breaches of the scheme included at Rydges Hotel on Swanston St and the Stamford Plaza in the CBD.

The worst clusters that stemmed from breaches of the scheme included at the Stamford Plaza in the CBD. Picture: Wayne Taylor
The worst clusters that stemmed from breaches of the scheme included at the Stamford Plaza in the CBD. Picture: Wayne Taylor

Dozens of COVID-19 cases were linked back to those hotels, according to genomic sequencing by health officials.
Premier Daniel Andrews recently conceded that the second wave Victoria was confronting in its battle against coronavirus was largely attributable to problems with the hotel scheme.

Director of the Centre for Corporate Law at the University of Melbourne, Professor Ian Ramsay, said class actions against governments were relatively rare, but that there were some recent examples under way.

These included the robodebt case, which is aimed at the federal government for issuing incorrect Centrelink debt notices.

 

University of Melbourne law expert Professor Ian Ramsay.
University of Melbourne law expert Professor Ian Ramsay.

 

"We are seeing more cases where the government is the defendant," Prof Ramsay said.

"One couldn't predict any possible outcome … but given the current environment for class actions I am not at all surprised to hear there's interest in this."

Prof Ramsay said it made sense for law firms to look at the findings of the state inquiry into the hotel quarantine scheme before embarking on potential action, in a similar way to lawyers considering findings from ASIC investigations in corporate law cases.

Mr Phi said the capacity to run an action had been hampered by recent federal government regulations, which treated clients as "investors in a managed investment scheme who are trying to make a profit rather than obtain compensation for the incredible losses that have been suffered".

"These regulations will increase costs, and it's the Prime Minister's own 'Quiet Australians' that will pay the price," he said.

The inquiry into the hotel quarantine scheme is set to run until November.

 

Originally published as Class action brewing over hotel quarantine bungles

Premier Daniel Andrews recently conceded the second wave Victoria was confronting in its coronavirus battle was largely attributable to problems with the hotel scheme. Picture: Ian Currie
Premier Daniel Andrews recently conceded the second wave Victoria was confronting in its coronavirus battle was largely attributable to problems with the hotel scheme. Picture: Ian Currie
Rydges Hotel on Swanston St was one of the quarantine hotels linked to a coronavirus cluster. Picture: Getty Images
Rydges Hotel on Swanston St was one of the quarantine hotels linked to a coronavirus cluster. Picture: Getty Images

The knockout blow for our lockdown-hit north

Premium Content The knockout blow for our lockdown-hit north

As if coronavirus restrictions hadn’t battered north Queensland tourism operators...

Blasting works to shut road for an hour next week

Premium Content Blasting works to shut road for an hour next week

Department of Main Roads advises motorists to plan for the closure.

Free workshops as Safe Work Month campaign goes digital

Premium Content Free workshops as Safe Work Month campaign goes digital

The initiative kicks off on October 1 and will offer 22 sessions free of charge...