Homeowners take insurers to court

23:42, Sep 05 2012

The High Court's earthquake list is seeing cases where houseowners with full replacement insurance have settled their claim with the Earthquake Commission, then made claims against their insurers for the remainder.

Justice Forrest Miller, the executive judge running the earthquake list in Christchurch, said three such cases were filed this week with the earthquake list court that was begun quietly in May as a test.

The High Court has now gone public with the system, with Justice Miller and Justice John Fogarty speaking at a seminar organised by the Canterbury-Westland branch of the New Zealand Law Society.

Twenty-four cases have gone on to the list so far, with four tried and three decisions issued. They include declaratory judgments and judicial reviews.

The list will include the dispute over the deconstruction of Christ Church Cathedral, to be heard by Justice Chisholm in a few weeks.

The list is still to see its first case where homeowners take on insurers who will pay out only for the nominal value of repairs on a fairly undamaged red-zoned property.

People have been mainly settling for the Crown offer, but a legal seminar in Christchurch was told the courts might see the first cases of that type as claims for higher-value hill properties were dealt with.

Justice Miller said none of the cases seen so far had raised that issue.

"That should be susceptible to a single decision from the court," he told the lawyer who raised the question.

"If the proper case was brought, the court would do what it can to get such a case on."

He said the court did not want to encourage litigation, "but if it is necessary we will do everything we can to get cases to trial economically and as quickly as we can".

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