James Hardie leaky building $100m class action lawsuit gains big backer
The lawyer aiming to take a $100 million class action lawsuit against leaky building cladding manufacturers, including James Hardie, has secured funding from Europe's largest litigation funder.
Adina Thorn says Harbour Litigation Funding has agreed in principle to back the case, with a final decision to be taken when she has sifted the registrations and compiled a list of claimant who were able to join the law suit.
Harbour is funding litigation in Australia, including a late-payment fee case against GE Money on behalf of borrowers, a case against phone company Telstra, and a case against listed minerals firm Oz Minerals.
Thorn said over 1200 leaky home owners had registered to be part of the case through the website www.goodcladding.co.nz, though she continued to register new claimants.
"Most are single dwellings, but the thing that has surprised me is that I would have expected a much higher proportion in Auckland. Registrations are spread all over New Zealand.
"It is showing this is an absolutely national disaster," Thorn said.
She expects a claim for over $100 million to be laid in the courts within months.
While no final decision had been made, most claims involve products from Australian manufacturer James Hardie, she said.
A spokesman for James Hardie said the company had no comment to make..
Leaky building owner Annamarie Rangikotua from Belmont, Lower Hutt said Harbour's decision to back Thorn was "fantastic".
Rangikotua said home, which she bought in 2005, would cost about $190,000 to fix, money she does not have.
The house was now worth less than she owed on the mortgage and the bank would not lend her any more money.
"This is my one and only shot," she said.
Thorn said there would be no out-of-pocket cost to home owners in the action, but fees and costs were likely to be between 30-40 per cent of payout awarded. If the case did not succeed, home owners would pay nothing.
"Harbour only invests in cases it believes have strong prospects of success so we are encouraged that they have decided to fund this class action," Thorn said.
Not only were properties geographically spread, so are are the claimants themselves.
People have signed up from as far afield as Australia and Britain.
"We have had an overwhelming response from leaky building owners across New Zealand," Thorn said.
"Many have lost everything. Some have 100 per cent mortgages or cannot increase their lending.
"Most can't afford to fix the problem. Thousands of people and families have been left with no choice but to live in leaky, mouldy homes that can pose a significant health hazard," Thorn said.
British-based Harbour specialises in financing litigation in England and Wales, and common law jurisdictions like New Zealand and Australia, It has so far funded cases with an aggregate claims value of over £2.2 billion ($4.7 billion).
It currently has 30 cases, including the New Zealand case, with cases in England, Wales, the Channel Islands, Bermuda, Caribbean, Australia, Switzerland and the US.