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Wivenhoe class action members secure $440 million partial settlement

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The Wivenhoe and Somerset class action has been partially settled for $440 million after a compensation agreement was reached with the Queensland Government and its statutory body, SunWater, law firm Maurice Blackburn announced last week.

The settlement comes more than a year after the NSW Supreme Court ruled in November 2019 that negligence by operators of the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams exacerbated the 2011 Brisbane floods.

Maurice Backburn filed the class action in 2014, alleging 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.

The class action, which includes a number of insurers, 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.

Maurice Blackburn calls the $440 million compensation a “record” and one that will offer some closure for its clients after a long and arduous legal battle.

“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,” Principal Rebecca Gilsenan said.

Maurice Blackburn says Seqwater, which is 50% liable for the damage, is not a party to the settlement and will continue to appeal the NSW Supreme Court ruling.

“Of course, complete closure can only happen for our clients when Seqwater also settles or Seqwater’s appeal is finalised,” Ms Gilsenan said.

“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 Seqwater appeal starts in May.