find the latest legal job
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Legal Inhouse / Lawyer / Company Secretary
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Fantastic Company · Potential to be Part Time / Flexible Work Pattern
View details
Part Time Risk & Compliance Officer
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Brisbane City · Flexible Part Time Hours
View details
Infrastructure Lawyer/SA
Category: Construction Law | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Global elite law firm · Dedicated Infrastructure team
View details
Queensland floods class action likely

Queensland floods class action likely

Hundreds of flood-affected Queensland residents have approached Maurice Blackburn about a possible class action in the wake of the release of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry report last week.

Maurice Blackburn partner Rod Hodgson told Lawyers Weekly the level of interest has been “massive” from householders and business owners affected by the 2011 floods downstream of the Wivenhoe Dam.

On 16 March, the Commission released a report which said that flood engineers employed by state government body Seqwater failed to operate the dam in accordance with the manual governing the Dam’s operation.

“In essence, the findings confirm that too much water was allowed to accumulate in Wivenhoe Dam and the strategy for water releases was botched,” said Hodgson.

“They didn’t release enough water early enough, and that meant they were forced to let a lot of water go later in the piece, and that caused or contributed to the flood.”

Hodgson said that while the Commission’s findings will not form the entire basis on which a class action would be founded, they go a long way to demonstrating that the engineers’ actions made a difference to flood levels.

“However, it is inconclusive and we need to do further investigative work, principally in the form of hydro-dynamic modeling, to demonstrate that [their actions] did make a difference to flood levels downstream of Wivenhoe,” explained Hodgson.

Hydro-dynamic modeling, said Hodgson, is essentially the process of showing that if the Dam was operated as it should have been, flood levels downstream of Wivenhoe would have been less.

“It’s a very, very complicated process, because there are many variables that are applicable,” he said. “It’s not just the water coming out of Wivenhoe. It’s the water coming out of other tributaries to the Brisbane River, rainfall in various areas, and – because Brisbane has a very tidal river – the impact of tidal flows on the water coming out of Wivenhoe.

“It’s a really complex exercise and I don’t pretend to understand all of it, but we’ll be engaging experts to look very closely at that issue.”

Maurice Blackburn has held several meetings within communities affected by the Wivenhoe floods, but Hodgson said the most recent one, held in Goodna shortly after the release of the Commission’s report, attracted the most people.

“It is no coincidence that the last meeting was the biggest community meeting, because a lot of people were waiting for the results of the inquiry, and that was the first community meeting we had held post the release of the report,” he said.

“The next step is to continue to analyse the report, which runs to about 600-odd pages. We are liaising with some of our key stakeholders, and litigation funder IMF has partnered with us to conduct further investigations.”

Hodgson said that if any class action is launched, it will likely be three or four years before it is resolved. However, he added that the imminent Queensland elections may speed up the process.

“It’s conceivable that the government – and it’s looking like we will go from a Labor one to a conservative one – will come along and say they want to engage with us early to resolve the matter,” he said.

“Ana Bligh has said that if litigation is commenced, the state will act as a model litigant. That is pleasing, and I hope that holds true for any defendant in the action.”

During the course of the Floods Commission, Allens Arthur Robinson partner Michael Ilott wrote a letter to Maurice Blackburn which accused Bob Munt, a private investigator hired by Maurice Blackburn, of falsely representing himself to be acting for the Commission when speaking to a witness.

Allens withdrew the allegation when it was proved to be false. Allens acted for Seqwater at the Commission.

Not so fast

While Maurice Blackburn seems confident the Commission’s report provides a solid basis for a class action, Slater & Gordon’s general manager of commercial and project litigation, James Higgins, said “there is no need to jump into talk of extensive legal action until the report has been reviewed in its entirety”.

“Given the length and complexity of the report, and the substantial work conducted by the Commission in preparing it, it is only appropriate to consider the report fully before forming any conclusions about potential legal action,” he said.

“A further complication, as an outcome of [the] report, is the referral of the Dam’s engineers to the [Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission]. This referral has the potential to prevent any civil proceedings progressing until the conclusion of a potential criminal trial.”

The report recommended that senior Seqwater engineer Robert Ayre, as well as John Tibaldi and Terry Malone, be referred to the CMC for investigation in regard to their flood report, statements given to the Commission and evidence given to the state government.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Queensland floods class action likely
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Crowd
06:05
Anti-radicalisation programs playing ‘second fiddle’ to terrorism laws
Several academics have questioned the balance between Australia’s counterterrorism legislation and...
 William Ah Ket
06:00
‘Bamboo ceiling’ thought piece wins inaugural law prize
A paper that explores the idea of affirmative action to achieve greater diversity among members of A...
Nov 22 2017
Reduced investment protections will make robust commercial arbitration mechanisms all the more critical for investors
Promoted by Maxwell Chambers. This article discusses the current trend away from investor protect...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...