Leaky building mega suit hits court

Monday 21 November 2016

Stage one of a multi-million dollar leaky building class action suit against cladding manufacturer, the James Hardie group, kicked off in Auckland’s High Court today.

By Miriam Bell

The class action involves over 1000 property owners who argue that various James Hardie companies were negligent in the design, manufacture and supply of their plaster cladding systems.

These systems included Harditex, Monotek and Titan Board products, which were used in buildings now classified as leaky homes.

The class action involves 365 buildings, all of which featured these cladding products, and includes 29 large body corporate complexes.

The plaintiffs argue that they suffered financial losses and significant health issues due to the use of the cladding in their buildings.

While proceedings look set to unfold in stages over a lengthy period of time, the Auckland High Court will be hearing interlocutory applications over the next few days.

These applications cover a range of issues – including the James Hardie parent company’s opposition to the suit being heard in New Zealand and an application for further details of the plaintiffs’ claims against the James Hardie companies.

Two of the seven defendant companies have also applied to be removed from the suit and this is opposed by the plaintiffs.

Mark O’Brien QC, on behalf of the plaintiffs, said the company had a duty of care to its customers which it breached.

It has been estimated that the class action, which is funded by a London based litigation funder, could amount to $250 million.

However, the James Hardie group has been involved in major legal action in the past and will put up a stiff defence.

This week’s hearing heralds that the suit’s proceedings are getting underway, but it is not the first time participants have been in court.

Last month the Auckland High Court ruled that 15 additional plaintiffs could join the class action. The application was opposed by the James Hardie group.

Meanwhile, a separate Wellington-based class action against the James Hardie group is also heading for court.

That claim, which is self-funded by the plaintiffs involved, is estimated to amount to $20-25 million.

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