Insurers join Queensland flood class action

A brace of insurers have joined with 4000 other victims of the 2011 Queensland floods to take part in a record class action against the region’s dam operators.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers lodged the NSW Supreme Court class action yesterday against Seqwater, Sunwater and the State of Queensland.

The claim alleges that engineers repeatedly breached proper dam operation guidelines as far back as December 2010, leading to the releases of huge volumes of water immediately before the floods which rocked south-east Queensland.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Damian Scattini says the flood, which caused $2.38 billion in damage, was preventable.

“Many people have been led to assume that the January 2011 flood was caused by unprecedented heavy rainfall in early January, and that as a result the flood that occurred could not be avoided – when that is simply wrong,” he says.

“The claim filed today paints a much starker picture, going back to as far as 1 December 2010, and outlining that for every day in December 2010 through until mid-January 2011 there was a flood emergency – where both dams were full, substantial heavy rain had already fallen and more rain was predicted.

“Despite this, at every opportunity from 1 December 2010 onwards the flood engineers failed again and again to undertake proper release strategies for both dams, irrespective of the continuing weather warnings that made it clear more heavy rain was expected.”

A spokesman for litigation funders Bentham IMF says insurers party to the action are seeking about $100 million in claims, and more are being encouraged to join over the next four months.

It is believed the damages sought could reach as high as $1 billion, making it Australia’s largest. Seqwater has a professional indemnity policy with Lloyd’s.