Brisbane 2011 flood class action win of $450 million to be distributed by early 2023
A 12 year wait to get compensation for government bungling. The genesis of the problem was a decision by the Bligh Labor government to use the flood compartment of the Wivenhoes dam for water storage Victims of the 2011 Brisbane floods have started receiving part of the $450 million settlement won in a class action against dam operator SunWater and the state of Queensland.
In November 2019, the Supreme Court in New South Wales found flood engineers operating the Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams in Queensland were negligent and failed to follow the manual they had helped draft.
While the court ruled in favour of the negligence claim against the Queensland government of the day, as well as Seqwater and SunWater, other aspects of the case failed.
The class action alleged the dam operators failed to follow their own manual and did not make enough room for heavy rainfall until it was too late, heightening flood levels and damaging more properties.
Maurice Blackburn lawyer Rebecca Gilsenan told ABC Radio Brisbane's Steve Austin some of the almost 7,000 claimants had received an interim payment.
She said the total payout would not be distributed until all legal matters associated with the case were finalised. That could take until the end of this year or early 2023.
"We are releasing partial payments now so people can get something," Ms Gilsenan said. "We've paid about 300 people so far and we are paying on a rolling basis — when people accept their loss assessment, we can pay them."
Maurice Blackburn developed a settlement scheme which informed how the money would be distributed among the claimants and took into account their location and the damage sustained.
Ms Gilsenan said most people accepted their assessment and wanted to "move through the process". "There are a small number of people who have appealed and asked us to look at that assessment again and we've done that," she said.
"They're only ever going to get half of what they lost, at most, because we only settled half the case, half the case we lost, so I can understand why some people are angry. "But more than 95 per cent understand and accept what's being allocated."
Describing the initial payouts as a "conservative amount", Ms Gilsenan said most were valued at just several thousand dollars.
She acknowledged the decade-long legal process was too long and left victims without a sense of closure for many years