Queensland Government, SunWater reach record $440 million settlement with 2011 flood victims
26 February 2021
Over 6,500 victims of South East Queensland’s devastating 2011 floods are set to finally receive compensation after the State of Queensland and SunWater reached a $440 million settlement with the class over the negligent operation of the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams.
The historic settlement covers 50 per cent of the liability for the damage suffered by flood victims.
A third defendant Seqwater, which is 50 per cent liable for the damage, is not a party to the settlement and will continue to appeal NSW Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones’s 2019 decision that it failed to operate the dams properly or take into account rainfall forecasts when releasing water.
Maurice Blackburn Principal Rebecca Gilsenan said the $440 million settlement followed a long and arduous legal battle for flood victims.
“It has now been ten years since the Brisbane and Ipswich floods, so this settlement is a very welcome development that we hope will bring some much-needed closure to our clients, who have had to endure significant uncertainty and frustration while the defendants fought this case at every turn,” Ms Gilsenan said.
“Of course, complete closure can only happen for our clients when Seqwater also settles or Seqwater’s appeal is finalised. The class will continue to vigorously fight Seqwater’s appeal, buoyed by today’s substantial settlement reached with the other two defendants.”
The settlement is subject to approval by the NSW Supreme Court and agreement on terms, with an approval hearing likely to take place before the appeal starts in May.
Ms Gilsenan said the settlement also highlighted the important role of class actions and litigation funding.
“By bringing a class action, thousands of flood victims were able to come together to access the justice system with the financial support of a litigation funder,” Ms Gilsenan said.
“This was complex and hard-fought litigation, and our clients would never have been able to run a case of this scale without the class actions mechanism to recover what they have lost,” she said.
Maurice Blackburn filed the floods 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, Omni Bridgeway (formerly IMF Bentham).
The action alleged that the dam operators were negligent in 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.