James Hardie is an international building materials company, specialising in the manufacture of ‘Harditex’, ‘Titan board’ and ‘Monotek’ building cladding products used in the construction of several thousand New Zealand homes and buildings throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s. They are known to be a sophisticated company with a long history of litigation relating to asbestos-related claims. It is currently facing two separate actions (run by Adina Thorn in Auckland and Parker & Associates in Wellington) which allege that James Hardie was negligent in the design, manufacture and supply of the ‘Harditex’, ‘Titan board’ and ‘Monotek’ exterior cladding systems.
Tracey Cridge and Mark Unwin of Wellington were the first of now over 1,100 leaky building owners involved in the self-funded Wellington based class action against James Hardie after inspection revealed their ‘Harditex’ clad home suffered water damage requiring an estimated $300,000.00 in repairs. Many claimants have alleged severe health issues caused by black mould and financial damage as a result of James Hardie ‘designing, manufacturing and knowingly selling faulty cladding materials’.
Similar allegations are being made against James Hardie in the Auckland based class action. The $20-25 million dollar Auckland based class action is fully funded by London based Harbour Litigation Funding. Litigation funding agreements are becoming more common place, with many more litigation funders becoming active in New Zealand.
In October, an Auckland High Court Judge ruled that 15 additional claimants can join the $250 million dollar action being pursued by Adina Thorn. Further, the Supreme Court recently ruled in the leaky schools litigation between Carter Holt Harvey and the Ministry of Education that claims in relation to defective building products are arguable, and are not subject to the 10-year limitation period under the Building Act 2004. Despite this, and these two class actions, James Hardie continues to deny their products have suffered any failing or fault.