Parker & Associates seeks to bring class suit against James Hardie in leaky homes case

The law firm has filed a claim in the High Court in Auckland on behalf of Tracey Cridge and Mark Unwin.

Auckland-based law firm Parker & Associates is calling for claimants as it looks to file a class action lawsuit against global building materials supplier James Hardie.

The law firm has filed a claim in the High Court in Wellington on behalf of Tracey Cridge and Mark Unwin, alleging James Hardie was negligent in its design, manufacture and supply of the Harditex cladding system. It wants to form a group for a class action or test case on behalf of similarly affected homeowners against the ASX-listed company, Parker & Associates said in a statement. Potential claimants have until the end of the year to join the claim before a 15-year time bar comes into effect, and will offer a free preliminary assessment for the first 500 applicants.

"Anyone whose property was built after 1990 using Harditex cladding and has suffered damage as a result of the alleged system defects, may be eligible to join the claim," partner Dan Parker said. "Many homeowners will have no idea of potential problems with their properties and hidden damage without expert investigation."

The potential 'leaky home' class suit would be the second this year after Adina Thorn Lawyers launched one against plaster cladding manufacturers, and follows from a Court of Appeal ruling on the Ministry of Education's claim against Carter Holt Harvey that claims against cladding manufacturers wasn't subject to a 10-year limitation under the Building Act.

James Hardie has been involved in a number of leaky building cases in New Zealand, and as at March 31, held a $US2 million provision, net of third-party recoveries, against potential weather-tightness claims, and flagged it could face an extra $US500,000 of losses due to the uncertainties over the claims. It reported a $US4.3 million income benefit on its weather-tightness claims in the 2015 financial year due to a lower provision, increased rate of claim resolution, fewer claims at the end of the period, and a reduction in the number of claims received.

The building materials maker was initially named as a defendant by the education ministry in its suit against cladding manufacturers, and later reached a deal with the government agency, which the parties said would support the remediation of weather-tightness issues in existing school property and support future developments across the country.

New Zealand has yet to develop legislation for class actions, with representative suits evolving through court rules rather than legislation, and leaving a lack of clarity over some of the procedural rules.

The government had expected to complete the policy work for the legislation in 2012, adopting one of the recommendations in a parliamentary committee report into the spate of finance company collapses through the second half of last year but has since put the work on the backburner.


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