Adani drops $600m claim against Queensland activist and seeks $17m instead

Mining giant Adani has revealed it is seeking more than $600 million in damages from an environmental activist, a figure it has now dropped. civil case against Ben Pennings.

Adani claims that Pennings, as the national spokesperson for the Galilee Blockade group, sought to disrupt the operations of the Carmichael Coal Mineits suppliers and subcontractors.

Adani had scratched the $600 million figure from his statement earlier this month, leaving the damages sought in the amended document at $86,579, meaning Pennings could ask for the case to be thrown out by the Supreme Court. Queensland and instead heard in a lower – and less expensive – level of the court system.

That changed late Thursday, on the eve of a hearing on instructions to set a trial date, when Adani’s lawyers told Pennings of previously unquantified damages for having to conduct a second tender after the withdrawal. of his drilling contractor Downer.

Adani now claims the bidding to replace Downer cost him more than $17 million.

Adani alleges that Pennings “orchestrated a sustained campaign” against the Carmichael project, in which he solicited confidential information about the construction process and used it to harass contractors.

He tried in vain to conduct a search of the activist’s family home and his lawyers commissioned a private detective to take secret photographs of Pennings accompanying her nine-year-old daughter to elementary schoolmonitor his wife, browse her Facebook page and follow her at work.

The lawyer representing the mining company, Dominic Pyle, told the court on Friday that his client dropped the claim for “millions of dollars” “to save time, energy and effort.”

Adani told the Guardian the damages were downgraded to speed up the process.

“We have chosen to name an amount of damages so that the case can be tried without unnecessary delay to establish a larger sum than we will likely ever be able to recover,” a spokesperson said.

“His Honor Justice Brown accepted this approach.”

Pyle acknowledged there was currently little evidence to back up the $17million figure, but told the court that ‘details can and will be worked out’ once expert evidence is introduced. in the procedure.

But lead attorney representing Pennings, Dan O’Gorman, foreshadowed “serious doubts” over the figure, given Adani’s claim history regarding “damages and details of damages”.

Pennings described the past few weeks as a “roller coaster of emotions”.

“Adani initially dropped the massive damages claim he used in his second attempt to raid my family home, hiring investigators to follow my wife and children in the process,” he said. he declares. “The afternoon before the hearing, I was told that Adani wanted me to pay them $17 million instead. Then in court I found out that they ultimately thought I had cost them $600 million.

At stake for Pennings is her family home, including a dedicated space designed to meet the needs of her disabled child.

Pennings told the Guardian it was “difficult to publicly admit” that the Adani case had caused him “to go in and out of anxiety and depression”, sometimes making him physically ill.

“Telling my dear mom will cause her even more stress,” he said.

“But a case like this affects our democracy and people deserve to know the impacts of prolonged litigation against a peaceful protester. Despite almost two years of anxiety, I am still determined to win the case on behalf of all Australians.

A date to review the case is set for August 1, with Brown raising concerns about the “enormous time” spent on details and calling on both sides to help him set a date for a hearing and to to have the case “solved one way or the other”.

“It seems like a lot of time and money was wasted on the interlocutory stages rather than just continuing,” she said.

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