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Flood class action could sink under costs

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Flood victims line up for class action

Brisbane flood victims want to be "reimbursed for all the heartache" with lawyers launching a class action, claiming dam operators "released too much" water at once.

PT0M0S 620 349

A class action hoped to claim more than half a billion dollars compensation for thousands of Queensland flood victims could yet fail to get off the ground.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn released on Monday maps showing areas of the state’s southeast flooded in 2011 because of what it said was the mismanagement of Wivenhoe Dam.

During a press conference to reveal the maps, the group funding the litigation, IMF, conceded there was still a chance the class action would not go ahead.

Rosalie was one of the badly affected suburbs in the 2011 Brisbane flood.

Rosalie was one of the badly affected suburbs in the 2011 Brisbane flood. Photo: Glen Hunt

IMF executive director John Walker said the case's viability depended on how many flood victims Maurice Blackburn recruited and how much flood damage was done to those victims' homes.

He expected to the case to cost more than $10 million but, if it was successful, it would force the state government to hand over more than half a billion dollars in compensation.

‘‘We are still trying to assess the actual budget and over the next two or three months we’ll need to work out how much is going to be necessary in order to make the claim viable,’’ IMF executive director John Walker said.

‘‘Around about March or April we’ll be in a better position to answer that question.

‘‘It may not go ahead. It’s a small possibility but this project needs the sufficient support of the flood victims in order for it to proceed.’’

At the moment about 2000 people have signed on to the class action and another 2000 have expressed interest.

Maurice Blackburn is in the process of contacting every person who lives in the areas identified on the maps.

It is also planning another series of public meetings.

‘‘From the process we hope to get a better idea of the losses,’’ Mr Walker said.

‘‘If the insurance industry gets involved, and we hope they do, they’ve done a lot of work in trying to work out how much loss was caused by the floods so that is a good start.

‘‘We invite the insurance industry to get involved in the claim, not only as a victim but also providing - subject to their insurers' interests - the data relevent to the losses.’’

Flood victims are signing up to the class action under a "no win, no fee" deal.

The maps released by Maurice Blackburn were created using modelling by US hydrologists, however the legal firm has declined to name the engineers involved.

The maps suggest homes in various Brisbane suburbs including West End, South Brisbane and Milton were needlessly inundated during the 2011 summer floods.

They also suggest the Ipswich CBD should not have flooded.

Premier Campbell Newman said he had long been expecting Maurice Blackburn to mount a class action, but refused to comment on the matter further.

‘‘They’re a law firm, they’re going to push the case hard for their clients. I always expected that would be the case. It’s up to them,’’ he said.

Maurice Blackburn is expected to announce whether the class action will go ahead by April.

78 comments

  • Vrooom there goes an ambulance...

    Commenter
    pass that buck
    Date and time
    January 22, 2013, 1:28AM
    • From what I read in this statement, it is not whether the the engineers in charge of the damn were negligent or not, it is whether the lawyers are going to suck the prospective litigants dry enough to make it worth their effort. As a Queenslander who has always believed in buying and living on high ground, I say that these victims of their own choice should bear their losses, and let the lawyers make their money else where. I don't think that the rest of Queensland should have to pay for people's bad decisions, seeing as how flood maps are and have been available for decades. If you build on a flood plain expect to be flooded, but, don't expect the highlanders to pay for your lack of thought. I really do sympathise with you,but, the rest of the state has enough to pay for with natural disasters such as this one was, and how much of the this water didn't come down from Wivenhoe, but from Toowoomba.

      Commenter
      Queenslander
      Location
      Reality Land
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 6:49AM
      • +1

        Commenter
        Agreed
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 7:53AM
      • Couldn't have said it better! If you built on flood plains, you get flooded. It is a certainty.

        Commenter
        No taxpayers' money
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 8:48AM
      • +1

        Commenter
        davej
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 9:01AM
      • Wrong. As IMF can now demonstrate these properties were not in flood areas and should not have flooded but did so only because of the negligence and mismanagement of the dam by SEQ Water. The State Government will have to settle because IMF now have them over a barrel with facts and SEQ Water are no longer able to lie their way thru the issue using expert reports based only on selective information provided by SEQ Water.

        Once the government's lawyers goes over IMF's report and compares it with the dishonesty of SEQ Water they will realise they have no chance of defending it successfully. If homes were flooded due to mismanagement by government employees then unfortunately we all have to cop it.

        Commenter
        Me
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 9:01AM
      • this is an overly simplistic view. simply to live on high land. maybe you're more prone to bushfires than flood?

        if you consider the number of cities worldwide that are on flood plains and then factor in the predicted increase in serious weather events due to climate change, the answer isn't to run for the hills but to incorporate design measures to mititgate against the impacts.

        there are many residential designs i have seen worldwide which creatively incorporate flood mitigation. in this century, it is about ADAPTING not RETREATING

        Commenter
        fryer
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 9:27AM
      • Feel free to correct me if im wrong, but havent the operators already been cleared of any wrong doing. As the dam manual they were abiding by was too technical & ambiguous even for dam engineerers to understand and follow. Natural disasters happen and the best we can hope for is to learn from them, so they have less impact the next time around.

        Commenter
        kevo
        Location
        brisbane
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 9:57AM
      • Sorry Kevo but the exoneration of the Dam Engineers was based only on information provided by SEQ Water. Hardly independent. IMF have had genuinely independent experts look at it and it doesn't look good. I supect the reason they won't release the names of the experts is that there is a bully boy mentality amongst public infrastructure managers in that if you dare to criticize the actions of a public authority, you won't get any more work and the word spreads very quickly, even internationally. That's why they had to get experts from America.

        Commenter
        Again
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 11:12AM
      • Me
        no 2 floods in history have been the same if the dam had not have been there where would it have flooded
        the dam operators had no control over nature and the extra inflow from the lockier valley and toowoomba region so do we also sue god for this extra water
        the flood map only shows possible flood areas if the river gets choked with rubish the water goes another way never the same way as previous floods one thing can be assured on that water will run downhill
        why should the rest of qld pay for for flood damage that is what insurance companys are for it is not the fault of the state govenment that it rained they have already contributed much in the clean up if you have no flood cover it is not the fault of the govenment but your own fault for not getting it or living in an area that insurance companys will not cover it because it is a sure thing that it will flood

        Commenter
        max
        Location
        qld
        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 11:15AM

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