Flood victims call on state to abandon class action defence
THE MULTI-BILLION dollar class action by 2011 flood victims against the State should be settled out of court by the Queensland Government before it gets to trial.
That is the view of Cr Paul Tully who said the government should stick to its word from three years ago and be a model litigant in the matter.
Cr Tully also has the backing of 73-year-old flood victim Frank Beaumont who was denied an insurance payout because his insurance company quibbled over the definition of the word 'flood'.
The class action has been launched by law firm Maurice Blackburn against Seqwater, Sun Water and the State of Queensland on behalf of 4500 Ipswich and Brisbane plaintiffs who lost homes and businesses in the 2011 floods.
The hearing has been set down for the Supreme Court of NSW in Sydney on July 18, 2016.
"The former Labor Government and the LNP both said in 2012 that they would act as model litigants in this matter," Cr Tully said.
"A lot of people are suffering and still haven't got back to their homes and I urge the government to settle the claim prior to the hearing
"That would need goodwill on both sides, but we don't want taxpayer money being wasted to lose the case and have to pay out even more money.
"This would be an appropriate case, based on the material to be exchanged between the parties over the next 12 months, for the government to consider a settlement."
An independent investigation by Maurice Blackburn, which took over a year to complete, concluded that the flooding of a large number of properties downriver from Wivenhoe Dam in 2011 would not have occurred had the dam been operated to the standard expected of a reasonably competent dam operator.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the QT any decision about a settlement would be made by Crown Law and that she was not able to comment.
Mr Beaumont, who was left with just a roof and three walls after the 2011 floods destroyed his Goodna home, has backed Cr Tully's call.
His experience mirrors that of many in the community.
"I'm a pensioner and I had to go back to part-time work because we didn't get any insurance," he said.
"We were insured but the insurance company said they didn't cover 'floods'.
"It is my aspiration that the government would be prepared to settle out of court.
"I think there is a better chance of that happening under the Labor Party, but if they wait until July next year and fight it that will just be putting us through more pain.
"It will also cost millions of dollars for lawyers if they do fight it."
Mr Beaumont got a flood victim payment from the government but because he and his family lost everything in their house they had to replace household items such as furniture and white goods, and find accommodation for six months.
The payment did not cover costs and Mr Beaumont said the family had to borrow money they didn't have to rebuild their home.
"We had to not just rebuild our house. We had to rebuild our lives," he said
The class action case is being heard in NSW because Queensland does not allow for class action suits in its courts.
The initial plaintiff lived in NSW and had a flooded property in Brisbane, entitling them to launch the initial action in NSW.
"That enabled 4500 plaintiffs in Ipswich and Brisbane to join in the multi-billion dollar class action," Cr Tully said.
"Goodna was the worst affected suburb in the 2011 flood with over 600 properties flooded which included homes and businesses."
"There were a lot of people who were denied insurance because of technicalities under the definition of 'flood' in their insurance policies who are still anxiously awaiting the outcome of the class action."
Cr Tully's own home was flooded in the 2011 floods and he is a plaintiff in the case against the State.