Wagner brothers 'paranoid' over 60 Minutes' flood story
A PROMINENT Queensland family has begun its defamation case against Channel Nine over an "insinuating and sly" story implying they were responsible for the deaths of 12 people - including a two-year-old girl - in the 2011 Grantham floods.
Toowoomba's Wagner brothers - Denis, John, Joe and Neill - say the 60 Minutes feature The Missing Hour defamed them when it said "an unprecedented inland tsunami" occurred and that this resulted from the Wagner business "failing" to prevent a quarry wall from collapsing during the deadly floods.
The business owners are seeking damages from Nine, TCN Channel Nine, Queensland Television, WIN Television Queensland and Nine MSN, where the material was broadcast.
Freelance journalist Nick Cater is also named in the action before the Brisbane Supreme Court.
The 60 Minutes segment was played to the four-member jury today.
It did not expressly blame the Wagner family for the deaths, but the court heard the brothers believe it resulted in viewers believing they caused the flood, tried to cover this up and that they refused to address the public on the matter.
Barrister for the Wagners Tom Blackburn described the episode as defaming the family "in an insinuating and sly way" and that it presented the brothers as "selfish blokes from the big end of town".
The broadcast presented the Wagners as "selfish", "suspicious" and "disgraceful", he said.
He said the brothers took issue with repeated statements throughout the program that claimed the flood was an act of God turned deadly due to their failings.
"The viewer knows this is the Wagners' quarry," Mr Blackburn told the jury.
"They owned it at the time. They operated it."
Mr Blackburn said the program implied the Wagners were the ones who should have avoided the flood and didn't.
Barrister Rob Anderson for Nine denied that the program defamed the Wagners, saying the brothers were "paranoid" about what it conveyed to the audience.
"The plaintiffs have viewed this program through their own eyes," Mr Anderson said.
"Perhaps they're being precious or paranoid.
"The reality is the program is about the locals' accounts of the flood event (that) weren't being heard."
The jury is expected to start considering its verdict on Wednesday.
The case continues before Justice Peter Applegarth.