$200 million 'leaky building' NZ class action filed against James Hardie

Lawyer Adina Thorn said some of the building in the claims were large apartment blocks.
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Lawyer Adina Thorn said some of the building in the claims were large apartment blocks.

A $200 million-plus leaky building class action civil lawsuit has been filed against cladding maker James Hardie.

Lawyer Adina Thorn filed the action on Monday in the High Court at Auckland. It seeks damages on behalf of leaky building owners, alleging James Hardie designed, manufactured and sold defective cladding materials.

The class action is being funded by UK-based Harbour Litigation Funding, one of the world's largest funders of class actions.

Thorn said the case was being taken on behalf of the owners of 350 buildings, though the scale of the leaky building problem that remained in towns and cities all around the country was larger. She said more than 1000 building owners had signed up to join the case through Thorn's "Good Cladding" website, but not all were eligible.

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Thorn said: "As some of the buildings are large apartment blocks, the number of individual units exceeds 1000. Many suffer from significant weathertightness and mould issues. The owners allege they have suffered extensive losses, damages and health issues that are caused by faulty James Hardie materials."

She said: "The claim follows many years of research and legal work.

"The size of this action just highlights the scale of this problem. We initially thought the action could be approximately NZ$100m in value, but has become more than double."

Thorn said: "The most satisfying aspect is to be able to bring before the court the case for those people who have in many instances had the equity in their properties destroyed through no fault of their own.

"This has become an inter-generational issue that has seen many people have their retirement plans destroyed by both financial and health issues. Leaky homes are expensive to fix, difficult to sell and many owners are suffocated by high borrowings. In some cases, sadly the problem is being passed down to the next generation."

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Despite the scale of the leaky homes debacle becoming clear around a decade ago, many leaky buildings have not yet been fixed.

Remedial work on leaky buildings in Auckland remains on a large scale. Buildings covered in plastic wrap while recladding is underway  is a common sight  for city-dwellers.

Thorn said: "As this action is funded by a litigation funder, owners who have suffered losses can be part of a well-resourced claim without facing any out-of-pocket expenses, while gaining the opportunity to share in any compensation and damages that are awarded at the end of the process."

James Hardie did not respond to requests for comment.

 - Stuff

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