Tears as flood victims win landmark case

James Marshall
December 1, 2019

Mr Rodriquez - the lead plaintiff in a class action against the Queensland government, Seqwater and Sunwater over the January 2011 floods in greater Brisbane and Ipswich - was handed a court win on Friday after a long and hard saga.

The Supreme Court in New South Wales found flood engineers operating the Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams were negligent and failed to follow the manual they had helped draft.

Mr Tully held flood victim Frank Beaumont in his arms, as the pair called on payments to now be delivered.

Mr Rodriguez was seeking damages after his Fairfield store was flooded and said he'd been "waiting for this outcome for a long time".

The class action which began hearings in December 2017 has heard enormously complex technical data but always centred on a simple proposition that Maurice Blackburn has pursued for many years.Julian Sexton, QC, for the plaintiff, told the hearing in its opening days that Seqwater dam engineers effectively "bet against" Bureau of Meteorology forecasts and failed to allow adequate storage space at Wivenhoe Dam for incoming flows during the crucial days of heavy rainfall in early January 2011.

Shirtless and wearing the same old trousers he had on when his Goodna home went under, the 77-year-old admits to being surprised by his own tears on learning he'd won.

The engineers appeared to assume no more rain would fall above the dam as they made decisions on how much water to release, the Judge said.

Some of the 23,000 homes and businesses hit by floodwaters would not have been hit as hard if not for the acts of negligence, the court found.

He said they did not factor in extraordinary rainfall forecasts in deciding how best to respond to the flood event.

Justice Beech-Jones told the court numerous decisions made by dam engineers bore little reference to the instructions outlined in the operations manual.

The focus from the state government should be on securing timely compensation, and on making sure Queenslanders were never again at the mercy of mismanaged dams, Ms Gilsenan said.

He said all dam engineers committed a "breach of duty" during the operation of the dam from January 6 to January 11.

Justice Beech-Jones agreed engineers negligently managed the dams.

A man wearing the same clothes he wore when floods devastated Queensland in 2011 broke down listening to a court rule that the state government was partly responsible.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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