Homeowners take insurers to court

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 15:43 05/09/2012

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The High Court's earthquake list has still to see its first case where homeowners are taking on their insurers who will pay out only for the nominal value of repairs on a property that has been red-zoned, although it is relatively undamaged.

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, who is the executive judge running the earthquake list in Christchurch, 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".

He expected plenty of business for 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 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, and four have been 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.

Justice Miller said the list was now seeing cases - three had been filed this week - where houseowners were saying they had full replacement insurance and, having settled their claim with the Earthquake Commission, they were making claims against their insurers for the remainder.

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- The Press

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