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Wivenhoe class action: insurers, flood victims win legal fight

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The NSW Supreme Court today ruled that negligence by the operators of the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams exacerbated the 2011 Brisbane floods.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, which filed the class action in 2014, says a number of insurers joined the legal action.

The law firm’s Media Manager Paddy Murphy told insuranceNEWS.com.au this afternoon “a significant portion of loss in this case is held by insurers”.

Insurers paid out more than $1.5 billion in claims (in today's dollars) following the 2011 floods catastrophe, according to the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).

“[Insurers] will review today’s decision for its commercial implications,” ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

The class action alleged negligence on the part of Queensland Bulk Water Supply Authority (which trades as Seqwater), Sunwater and the State of Queensland contributed to the extensive flooding disaster.

Plaintiffs claimed the three defendants are legally responsible for the actions of four flood engineers who were in charge of running flood operations at the two dams from January 2-11 in 2011.

Seqwater owned the dams and employed two of the engineers at that time. Sunwater was contracted to provide flood management services to Seqwater and the boss of one of the engineers. The state employed the fourth engineer.

“Our clients' concern that the dams above Brisbane were negligently operated in the 2011 floods, has been vindicated," Maurice Blackman Principal Lawyer Rebecca Gilsenan said.

"The NSW Supreme Court has delivered justice and resolution to the residents of SE Queensland for the unnecessary devastation that they suffered. 

“The focus of the defendants now should be to compensate the victims of their negligence swiftly and fairly and to bring to a close this long and distressing saga.”

Justice Robert Beech Jones, who handed down the ruling today, has adjourned the proceedings until next February to allow the parties to consider the judgement.

The case was heard in NSW because Queensland courts did not hear class actions when it was filed.