Auckland law firm warning Canterbury homeowners of shoddy steel
An Auckland litigation firm is warning thousands of Canterbury homeowners their properties may have been built with shoddy steel mesh.
Adina Thorn Lawyers delivered letters to property owners this week asking them to express interest in a proposed class action against steel manufacturers.
Its move comes after the Commerce Commission told three companies, including Steel & Tube, that it will prosecute them over allegedly sub-standard mesh.
The firm identified properties built since 2012 on concrete floors reinforced with steel mesh as being at risk, but says it does not know if homeowners it contacted are affected.
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Adina Thorn is experienced in running class actions, last year filing a $250 million civil lawsuit, involving about 1000 people, against cladding maker James Hardie.
Adina Thorn herself said about 2000 letters were posted to Canterbury homeowners, resulting in about 70 calls to her firm in one day.
Thorn said addresses contacted were based on territorial authority records of building consents and Christchurch City Council consent issues.
"Not every person that gets the letter will in fact have defective steel, but some of them will," Thorn said.
The letter stated a guilty verdict was unlikely to mean financial compensation for homeowners.
"We're just saying register if you've got an interest in this and we would take it from there," Thorn said.
"We would look into them and see whether they could have steel from one of the relevant companies the Commerce Commission's looking into or not."
The city council had fielded between 30 and 40 calls regarding the letter.
It did not accept there could be thousands of properties built using non-compliant steel mesh.
Consenting and compliance general manager Leonie Rae said the issues raised in the letter were "nationwide" and suggested homeowners contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Commerce Commission for advice on potential issues.
The council was confident its methods for checking the compliance of steel mesh were robust.
Thorn said her firm was seeing whether there was enough interest for a funder to pay for the action, which looked likely.
"Then we look at the viability owner by owner . . . We carry out a process to work out what the steel is and the merits of that claim."