Class action will break impasse, says lawyer

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014

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Constant delays, a lack of control and sheer frustration have prompted about 200 Canterbury homeowners to attend a meeting about a class action against Southern Response.

Christchurch law firm GCA Lawyers, headed by Grant Cameron, has taken on the case which claims breach of contract by way of unjustifiable delays in processing and settling earthquake claims.

Many people spoken to by The Press at the meeting, held at the Westpac Business Hub last night, said they still did not know if their homes would be rebuilt or repaired.

Jenny and Ron Harris spent about $200,000 making alterations to their Mount Pleasant home with a view to sell and downsize for their retirement.

The earthquakes "wrecked it", Ron Harris said, and negotiations with their insurer had so far failed to reach a satisfactory outcome.

Like many other claimants, class action was seen as a last resort.

"But we've just had enough," Jenny Harris said.

Cameron told the claimants that a class action against their insurer "is the mechanism that will break this impasse".

Class actions were "big and ugly from a defendant's point of view", he said.

Southern Response would not like any court action that included "interpretation of policies", he said, and could move to settle rather than have a court decision "set a precedent for hundreds of other claimants".

Graham Bloomfield, spokesman for the Honour Your Policy Action group that has brought the action, urged frustrated policy holders "not to be intimidated".

Some homeowners believed joining the legal fight could "further threaten their position". "We need to readdress the balance of power," he said.

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- The Press

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