Family wins negligence case after flooding ravages their business

Date: Dec 12, 2019

The plaintiff and his family hurried to their Brisbane sporting goods store when they heard of the possibility of flooding. There, they removed merchandise or placed it high up on tabletops. Despite their preparations, they were forced to leave on the afternoon of 11 January, 2011 as flood waters began flowing into the shopping centre. The flooding virtually destroyed their business.

What caused the flooding?

The Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams, which stand upstream of the plaintiff’s store, received heavy rainfall in the days leading up to the flooding. Despite water rising above the dams’ “full supply level”, flood engineers did not release water until 11 January, 2011 following the torrential downpour that started on the 9th.

The release of water from the two damns combined with overflow from the Brisbane River, the Bremer River, and Lockyer Creek caused the flooding of many homes and businesses in the area, including the plaintiff’s sporting goods store.

Details of the case

The plaintiff seeks damages for:

  • Stock lost
  • Clean up costs
  • Profits lost due to the closure of the store

On the basis that flood engineers at the two dams had been negligent by not releasing water earlier in anticipation of heavy rain forecasts.

The plaintiff called two expert witnesses (civil engineers) to analyse whether the defendants (flood engineers represented by the State of Queensland, Seqwater, and Sunwater limited) could have averted the flooding with more responsible preparation.

The witnesses proposed multiple alternative scenarios in which they showed the engineers could have averted the disaster, in which case the plaintiff’s store would not have flooded. The defense disagreed completely, questioning the honesty of the plaintiff’s witnesses and claiming that their data was falsified. The court, however, accepted the expert’s data despite concern over their lack of real-world experience with floods.

On 29 November, 2019 the court ruled the defendants had indeed been negligent. Damages to be awarded to the plaintiff will be decided later as the trial is set to pick up again in February of 2020.

If you feel you may have a public liability case of your own and you wish to seek compensation for your losses, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts at Gerard Malouf and Partners. We are concerned about your story and may be able to help.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.