The SES is keeping a close eye on a court case on the Gold Coast, where a volunteer organisation is being sued.
The SES is keeping a close eye on a court case on the Gold Coast, where a volunteer organisation is being sued. File

Volunteers in legal worry

A COURT case being played out on the Gold Coast is sending chills down the spines of local volunteer organisations.

The case, against the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR), could result in a rash of lawsuits against volunteer groups.

New Zealand sailor Bill Goodhue is suing the VMR for negligence.

He has alleged the VMR moved his yacht from its mooring at the Southport Broadwater.

The ocean-going ketch, Warlock, keeled over at its new mooring and filled with water.

Mr Goodhue is suing the VMR for $90,000 in compensation.

The Civil Liability Act, which was introduced by the Beattie government in 2003, was intended to keep a lid on soaring public liability insurance premiums, and meant volunteers could not be sued.

But Mr Goodhue argues the law does not protect volunteer organisations.

Surf Life Saving Queensland Wide Bay Capricorn general manager Craig Holden said the case was a major concern for the organisation.

“Surf Life Saving Queensland has been looking into it to see what the implications are for us,” he said.

“Depending on which way it goes, it could have huge implications for us.”

Mr Holden said the organisation had been talking to its insurers about the case.

“It may have exposed a loophole in the law,” he said.

Bundaberg SES controller Bill Daniels said the organisation also was keeping a close watch on the outcome of the case.

“I have heard of it, but at this point I'm not going to start worrying about it,” he said.

“The organisation's dealing with it and we'll be advised when it happens.”

Burnett Heads Volunteer Marine Rescue officer Bill Wagstaff said the group always acted to the best of its ability to help people in trouble at sea.

“Legal things like this put us in a poor position because the community looks to VMR to help them out should they need us,” he said.

Mr Wagstaff said it was an unfortunate position to be in, but realised that was the way the world was headed.



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