Maurice Blackburn filed a class action in the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 8th July, 2014, seeking compensation for financial loss and damage caused by the negligent operation of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams during the January 2011 flood in South East Queensland. The action is being funded by litigation funder, Bentham IMF (Australia) Ltd (formerly IMF Australia).

Major cases like this class action play a critical role in providing access to justice, and also in helping to ensure better standards and behaviour to avoid future events like the flood.

The claim is brought on behalf of more than 4000 flood victims.


FAQs - your questions answered

The class action alleges that the negligent operation of the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams in the lead up to and during the 2011 flood significantly contributed to the extent and the level of flooding downstream of the dams and created a flood that was much worse than it would have been if the dams had been operated competently.

The class action is being brought in negligence, against Seqwater, Sunwater and the State of Queensland. As the owner and operator of Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams, they had a duty to operate the dams competently in order to minimise the impact of dam releases downstream.

The action alleges that the dam operators were negligent in, among other things:

  • failing to use rainfall forecasts in making decisions about operating strategies, and
  • failing to preserve a reasonable amount of the dams' storage capacity in order to provide optimum protection of urbanised areas from inundation.

This negligent conduct, in addition to other conduct, contributed significantly to the downstream flooding experienced in Brisbane and Ipswich.

Class actions are generally brought by multiple people against the same defendant, where each person's claim arises out of the same or related circumstances.

The class action is being run on a no win – no fee basis.  This means that group members will not have to pay any fees unless the case is won.  If you are part of the action, you cannot be ordered to pay the other side’s costs if the action is unsuccessful.

All costs and risk will be fully underwritten by Bentham IMF. There are no out of pocket costs or risks to you.

If the action is successful, the costs of the proceedings, which will include expert evidence fees, legal costs and interest, will be shared across the class.

If the case is won, Bentham IMF will be paid from the net settlement or judgment proceeds (that is after payment of costs). Bentham IMF will receive up to 30 per cent of the net settlement or judgment proceeds.

The details of the costs and funding arrangements are set out in full in our Retainer and in Bentham IMF’s litigation funding agreement which group members have received and had the opportunity to consider before joining the class action.

About Bentham IMF (Australia)

Bentham IMF (Australia) is the largest and most successful litigation funder in Australia, having collected over $1.2 billion for clients. It is the first litigation funder to be listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and has successfully sued the Commonwealth and the States in previous class actions. Together Bentham IMF and Maurice Blackburn have been involved in the largest class action settlements in Australia.

The class action is seeking damages for our clients for economic loss.The amount of damages will vary from person to person depending upon their individual circumstances.

The types of damages that can be claimed are as follows:

  • Damage caused to business, home, furniture or possessions
  • Financial loss caused as a result of business interruption during and after the flood
  • Costs associated with temporary relocation during flood repairs
  • Costs associated with rebuilding, cleaning or repairing flood damage, and
  • Costs associated with replacing lost or irreparably damaged possessions.

The types of damages that we will not be claiming for are as follows:

  • Personal injury, or
  • Psychological harm.

If you wish to make a claim for damages for personal injury or psychological harm, you should seek urgent legal advice from another lawyer as strict time limits apply.

The class action is brought on behalf of people who suffered loss or damage as a result of inundation by water in areas downstream of Wivenhoe Dam in the period between 9 and 24 January 2011.

The class consists of people who have entered into a litigation funding agreement with Bentham IMF (Australia) and:

  • leased, owned or otherwise held interest in property that was inundated with water and suffered loss or damage as a result of the inundation, or
  • held an interest in land that was inundated with water and whose use or enjoyment of the land was interfered with as a result of the inundation, or
  • owned personal property that was damaged by flood water, or
  • regularly conducted a business in an area that was inundated with water and suffered economic loss as a result of the inundation.

The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry was established on 17 January 2011 to examine the events surrounding the 2010/2011 flood events in South East Queensland.

The Commission of Inquiry looked specifically at the events of January 6 – 11 2011. The floods class action investigations go beyond this, including looking at activities and events throughout the entire month of December 2010 leading in to the January 2011 flood event.

Maurice Blackburn played an important role in the Inquiry by representing residents of the community of Fernvale, which is located just below the Wivenhoe Dam.

On 16 March 2012, the Commission delivered its final report. It found that Wivenhoe Dam had been operated in breach of the manual that governs its operation.

Crucially, it was found that the dam operators had failed to use rainfall forecasts in making decisions about dam operating strategies. The Inquiry was also critical of the process by which strategies were selected.

The proceedings are being conducted as a 'closed class'. One of the criteria for membership of the class is entry into a Funding Agreement with IMF prior to the proceedings being commenced.  The proceedings have commenced and consequently, the class is currently closed. Not everyone has been able to sign up by the commencement of proceedings. We will be seeking to reopen the class to allow those who have signed up following lodgement to be included in the claim. There is no guarantee that the Court will allow this to happen although similar applications have been approved in other class actions.

We still invite all persons, businesses, charities, associations and other organisations that suffered financial loss or damage as a result of water inundation downstream of Wivenhoe Dam between 9 and 24 January 2011 to register their interest by visiting www.imf.com.au/wivenhoe or calling 1800 016 464.