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Queensland 2011 flood victim lawyers to mediate with Government ahead of 54-day trial

Ellie Sibson, Thursday April 13, 2017 - 18:54 EST

The Queensland Government and managers of the state's dams have been ordered by the New South Wales Supreme Court to meet with lawyers for 2011 flood victims to try and settle a class action and avoid a lengthy trial.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn, which represents more than 6,800 south-east Queensland residents, filed a class action in 2014 claiming negligent operation of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams during the 2011 flood crisis.

The parties have been ordered to mediate in August, ahead of a trial due to start in October which is set down for 54 days.

In a letter to residents, Maurice Blackburn said it was a large and complex case with risks.

"If the case goes to trial and the court makes a decision, there will be a winner and a loser," it wrote.

"A mediated outcome provides a compromise between these binary outcomes in which the parties compromise their positions having regard to the risks involved for each of them in going to trial.

"Further, a mediated outcome would deliver compensation to group members sooner because it would not be subject to the possibility of appeals in the way that a court's decision can be appealed and which can take several more years for the dispute to resolve."

Ipswich Deputy Mayor Paul Tully, who is a member of the class action, said mediation was a significant breakthrough for flood victims.

"It's something I've been calling for, for a number of years that the parties should get together to see if they can mediate this without having to go through a very expensive, long, drawn-out trial," he said.

"It's an important step and one which the claimants should feel a sense of opportunity that this will be resolved without an expensive court battle."

Maurice Blackburn is currently assessing the losses suffered by its clients using a sample of 250 claims from the group.

Lawyer Vavaa Mawuli said the firm would take that information to mediation in August.

"That process allows us to obtain a reasoned estimate of the total value of the losses being claimed in the action," she said.

"They [the clients] understand that if the case settles at mediation that will mean that the distribution of compensation will happen sooner.

"But at the same time we have told them that we are prepared to fight this case all the way through the courts if it can't be settled."

Ipswich flood victims Phillip and Koula Hassid are pursuing a separate class action in the same court for residents who have suffered pure economic loss, for example, those who did not sustain damage to property but where valuations decreased.

Seqwater said it was "confident that its management of the event, and the actions taken by its flood engineers, will continue to be shown to have significantly reduced the impact of the flood".


© ABC 2017

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