Furious and ready to sue

Flood victims including Carl and Patricia Wilmott of Goodna heard from class action lawyers Maurice Blackburn at a public meeting held at the Ipswich Showgrounds.
Flood victims including Carl and Patricia Wilmott of Goodna heard from class action lawyers Maurice Blackburn at a public meeting held at the Ipswich Showgrounds. David Nielsen

IPSWICH flood victims are being rallied to sue the state in a potential class action lawsuit claiming Wivenhoe Dam was mismanaged during the January 2011 disaster.

About 200 flood victims came to the Ipswich Showgrounds to hear the proposal on offer from litigation funder IMF Limited Australia and law firm Maurice Blackburn.

For many who attended Saturday's public meeting, the potential class action could be their last chance for compensation.

The operation of the dam has been under intense scrutiny at the Queensland Flood Commission of Inquiry, which is due to report its findings on Friday.

More than 1000 people have already joined the class action and lawyers expect thousands more to sign up following the meetings held in Ipswich, Fernvale and Brisbane at the weekend.

Goodna flood victim Carl Wilmott asked if his possessions that were swept away in the floods could be claimed.

"The house is obviously the most important thing, but what about all the possessions within my property?" he asked.

IMF Australia director John Walker and Maurice Blackburn managing partner Rod Hodgson told the crowd fallen house values and all lost possessions would be thrown into the mix.

The parties indicated the claim could be before the courts for as little as 12 months or up to four years.

However, they said further complex, time-consuming and expensive research into how the flood water may have flowed differently was needed before it could be determined if a class action could go ahead.

If strong grounds are found, they expect thousands of flood victims to join the class action.

While anticipating a huge potential payout, the class action lawyers could not specify details on the potential windfall for each claimant and could not place a dollar value on the fees they would claim.

Mr Hodgson said the basic case theory was that Seqwater, the people who run Wivenhoe Dam, had a duty of care to people living below the dam - and part of that duty of care was to adhere to the flood manual.

"The events of January last year are still very fresh. There is still a lot of anger out there and that is understandable," Mr Hodgson said.

"The dam was built after the 1974 floods primarily as flood mitigation. Before then and now there was a massive drought, and we think the emphasis of the people who run the dam shifted from releasing water to saving water."

Earlier this year two senior flood engineers stepped down, which coincided with the flood inquiry's investigation into the Wivenhoe Dam water releases during the floods.

Topics:  class action floods ipswich maurice blackburn queensland government wivenhoe dam

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