In this webinar we will outline the Wivenhoe appeal and explore why and on what grounds it succeeded (and failed).
To the extent it is possible at this stage of proceedings, we will also aim to identify any lessons learned that could help water and utility companies avoid or mitigate similar situations in the future. Some of you may feel that the reputation of engineering itself has been put on trial during this case, and this webinar will provide the opportunity to discuss this issue amongst your peers and raise any additional concerns you may have.
In February this year, the victims of the 2011 Brisbane floods were awarded almost $900 million in compensation from a class action against the Queensland government and state owned dam operators Sunwater and Seqwater. It was found that they’d been negligent in the way they released water from the Wivenhoe Dam, north-west of Brisbane. While the government and Sunwater agreed to pay their share (fifty percent) of the compensation, Seqwater launched an appeal.
On 8 September 2021, the NSW Court of Appeal upheld Seqwater’s appeal and found that they were not liable in negligence for its operations of Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams during January 2011. It is yet to be seen if this decision will be challenged in the High Court by the law firm representing the flood victims. The settlement reached with the State of Queensland and Sunwater remains in place.
The engineering community is entitled to scratch its collective head and wonder how a higher court can perform a 180 degree turn on a 5-year court case in which the trial judge produced a judgment of over 1,600 pages in support of its decision
About the speaker
Professor, Melbourne Law School
Katy Barnett is a Professor at Melbourne Law School, and has significant experience in the 'real world'. She’s worked on contentious matters in top-tier law firms, and as a researcher and clerk for Supreme Court judges. She has published widely on Remedies Law and is recognised as a world-expert in the field of remedies for breach of contract.
In 2016, Katy received the Barbara Falk Award for excellence in teaching, so rest assured that she is a great communicator and will not bamboozle with legalese. In her free time Katy enjoys spending time with her family, and art and calligraphy. She has also written a Young Adult fiction novel, 'The Earth Below', which was published by Ligature in 2019.
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