Queensland floods class action

On 29 November 2019, the Supreme Court of New South Wales delivered its judgment on the Queensland Floods Class action in favour of the plaintiff and group members. On 28 February 2020, Seqwater and SunWater each lodged an appeal against the Court’s judgment. The State of Queensland has confirmed that it will not be appealing. The plaintiff will be defending the appeals.

The trial of this proceeding commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 4 December 2017 and concluded in March 2019. 

The Court found that the plaintiff and group members suffered loss and damage as a result of the negligent operation of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams during the January 2011 flood in South East Queensland.

A two page summary of the decision is available here, and a copy of the entire written judgment is available here.

This case affects thousands of people and represents a significant victory for everyone who suffered devastating losses as a result of the flood.

Key documents

You can access copies of the key Court documents below:

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 operators 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 IMF Bentham. 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, IMF Bentham will be paid a commission from the settlement or judgment proceeds. The details of the costs and funding arrangements are set out in full in our Retainer and in IMF Bentham's litigation funding agreement which group members have received and had the opportunity to consider before joining the class action.

About IMF Bentham

IMF Bentham 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 IMF Bentham 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;
  • Psychological harm;
  • Pure economic loss; and/or
  • Claims only for nuisance in circumstances where there was no physical damage to property.

If you wish to make a claim for damages for personal injury, psychological harm, pure economic loss or nuisance in circumstances where there was no physical damage to property, 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 IMF Bentham (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 on or before 11 March, 2016.  The class is currently closed.

If you have any questions about the class action, please do not hesitate to contact IMF on 1800 016 464 or by visiting www.imf.com.au/wivenhoe.