Union victory in protracted Pentridge project court battle!

The CFMEU has claimed victory in a seven-year legal battle with the developers of the former Pentridge Prison site where a construction worker was killed.

The Union and eight representatives, including Victorian secretary John Setka, former assistant secretary Shaun Reardon and former president Bill Oliver, were named in a multimillion-dollar Supreme Court action brought by developers Pentridge Village and West Homes and company director Leigh Chiavaroli after the collapse of their troubled apartment project.

The developers had blamed the Union for delays and cost blowouts but dropped their claims in March this year, almost seven years after first launching the action.

“This is a win for our great Union but it has come at a significant financial and personal cost,” Mr Setka said. “For almost seven years, we have been dragged through the court and lived with these unfounded allegations hanging over us.”

The Pentridge Village apartment project was the subject of controversy after the tragic death of Thomas Kelly in a concrete pouring machine accident on October 15, 2009.

The developers launched action in the Supreme Court on June 30, 2016, claiming the actions of the Union, following Mr Kelly’s death, and the eight individuals named in their statement of claim resulted in losses, reportedly amounting to more than $150 million, from October 2009 to about February 2014.

However, the developers stepped back their claims several times, removing two defendants, shaving almost three years off the alleged timeframe and substantially reducing the amount they claimed to have lost.  

Even the developers’ own expert report struggled to support many of their claims and the court dismissed the case in the CFMEU’s favour in October 2021. In doing so, the court criticised the developers’ case, describing it as a snowstorm of unrelated and vague allegations and branding it a case management disaster.

Despite this, the developer appealed and filed a fourth and further amended statement of claim in July 2022.

In March 2023, after engaging its sixth law firm, the developers finally agreed to drop their claims. The case was settled with no orders about legal costs, meaning not a single dollar was paid to the developers by the Union or the individuals named in the legal action.

“The CFMEU and the individuals pursued in this court action have been completely vindicated,” Mr Setka said. “This is evidenced by the fact Pentridge Village, West Homes and Leigh Chiavaroli dropped their claims without costs, and that no other worker on that site failed to return home to their family at the end of the day.”