Leaky building owners wanted for class action

SIGN UP: Lawyer, Adina Thorn is fighting for leaky home owner clients.
Chris Skelton

SIGN UP: Lawyer, Adina Thorn is fighting for leaky home owner clients.

Leaky-building owners are being asked to join a proposed class-action civil lawsuit against cladding manufacturers, seeking damages of more than $100 million.

Auckland lawyer Adina Thorn says since the goodcladding.co.nz website went live on Monday morning, there have been registrations from all over New Zealand, and even from Australian owners of New Zealand buildings.

The leaky building scandal is estimated to have resulted in costs of more than $11 billion to repair, or replace leaky buildings constructed between 1994 and 2005, with the majority of the costs being shouldered by the buildings' owners.

But Thorn believes there is hope many leaky-buildings owners could get back some of the money they have lost with a class action law suit funded on a "no fee, no win" basis by international litigation funders.

The funders, who Thorn cannot name, will only commit if interest is high enough, however.

Thorn said: "This is all about buildings with plaster cladding. It's not only about homes, it's all buildings - homes, commercial buildings [and] hospitals. All buildings need to have proper and safe cladding."

She said the claim was being prepared in response to approaches she had received from owners of buildings constructed with claddings such as James Hardie's Harditex and Titan Board.

"The owners of plaster-clad buildings should now register their interest in being part of this action," said Thorn, who has represented the owners of many leaky buildings in the Weathertight Homes Tribunal.

"There's no cost involved in registering and all the legal costs during the legal process will be covered by a litigation funder.

"There's no time limit for joining the action, so a building of any age can join the action. Owners previously believed there was a 10-year time limit, but that is no longer the case, anyone can join this action."

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Thorn says the claim will not be covered by the 10-year limitation in the Building Act, which covers defective building work.

Instead the action would seek to prove that products like Harditex and Titan Board were defective.

For that, said Thorn, there was a limitation of six years from the point at which the owner of a leaky building knew, or ought to have known, that the product itself was leaky.

But Thorn said most owners would still not know whether or not the cladding products themselves were defective, as she alleges.

She said "99.9 per cent of the population will never know whether or not these claddings work or don't work".

Thorn said she expected to be seeking damages of at least $100m, if the case goes ahead.

Those registering interest include body corporates as well as individual owners.

James Hardie would not be drawn on the launch of registrations, or the allegations Thorn hopes to prove in court.

"At this point we are not making any comment about it," a James Hardie spokesperson said.

 - Stuff

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