One employee expected to sort 250K+ files for class action
one woman is the sole person in charge of searching more than 250,000 Gladstone Ports Corporation records for documents and other items relevant to a class action case against the government organisation.
More than 150 seafood industry members from Queensland and NSW – from Bowen to Sydney – are seeking $100 million-$150 million from GPC, saying works carried out by the corporation in the Gladstone Harbour about 2010 negatively impacted the water quality, fish health and fish numbers, which impacted the industry members’ businesses.
Lachlan Armstrong QC, for the plaintiffs (seafood industry members), raised concerns that only one person was responsible for searching, identifying and categorising about 500,000 items identified in the original search.
The concern was raised in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton on June 16 during debate about applications before the court for further disclosure of information by GPC and an extension of the timeline for materials to be filed, along with delaying the start of the 11-week trial by four months.
Damien Clothier QC for GPC said the original searches uncovered about 500,000 potential documents with 250,000 reviewed in a two stage process by lawyers, resulting in 10s of 1000s of documents disclosed to the plaintiffs.
Mr Armstrong said the plaintiffs were concerned there was only one person tasked to find documents, sort through them and provide a description in an affidavit.
It was raised during discussion about emails of five GPC staff being sought by the plaintiffs following talks with two former environmental officers in April.
Mr Armstrong said an affidavit by a GPC lawyer indicated the workload was expected to be completed by one employee.
“It seems to be anticipated that all of the review work in relation to the further disclosure, at least the emails, is expected to be done by the long-suffering (employee) and we do express some concern as to whether that is an appropriate level of resourcing and whether putting more people on to the task might mean that this exercise could be completed more quickly than it currently is,” he said.
“That would then accelerate our ability to finalise the last of the plaintiffs’ witness statements.”
The plaintiffs have requested a timeline change along with delaying the trial set for April 2021 by four months until August 1, 2021.
Justice Graeme Crow is expected to deliver his judgment next week in relation to the applications discussed in court on June 16.