Leaking Homes Mega-Lawsuit: James Hardie Secures $ 1.25 Million Settlement, “Terrible Day” For Homeowners

Adina Thorn said the outcome was terrible for homeowners and showed how difficult class actions in New Zealand can be. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The biggest water leak lawsuit in New Zealand history has been settled out of court.

And although the aggrieved homeowners demanded $ 220 million at one point, the target of the lawsuit received a payment instead.

The Herald revealed earlier today that the massive class action lawsuit was pending.

This afternoon, the James Hardie group confirmed that the case had been settled out of court and said they were delighted with the outcome.

But a homeowners attorney who sued James Hardie over his Harditex monolithic coating system said it was a “terrible” day.

James Hardie said as part of the settlement he would receive a payment of $ 1.25 million from Harbor Litigation Funding.

Homeowners from the West Coast, Auckland, Te Puke and Wellington's Hataitai (pictured) have testified in the largest lawsuit ever against the leaking homes  Photo / 123RF
Homeowners from the West Coast, Auckland, Te Puke and Wellington’s Hataitai (pictured) have testified in the largest lawsuit ever against the leaking homes Photo / 123RF

The company said the settlement supported James Hardie’s continued belief that the allegations lacked merit.

John Arneil of James Hardie Australia said the company has behaved like a responsible manufacturer.

But he added: “We remain very sympathetic to the owners adversely affected by the weather sealing issues.”

Harbor funded the class action lawsuit.

“There is a full and final settlement of all claims arising directly or indirectly from a dispute regarding the relationship with the Harditex coating product,” added James Hardie.

“The case will be closed in its entirety.”

Adina Thorn, who represented the owners, said this afternoon that it was a terrible result for the hundreds of owners involved.

“It’s a terrible day for the owners – and this is where I focus and always have been.”

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People suing the James Hardie group have claimed that the Harditex cement and fiber siding system causes problems such as moisture, mold and rot in their homes.

She said the result was indeed a three-way settlement and the owners were caught between James Hardie and Harbor Litigation Funding.

Thorn said the owners have been through a lot and today’s news has shown how difficult it can be to launch class actions in New Zealand.

“We’ve been working on this for five to six years. It’s a huge, huge loss for them.”

The massive class action lawsuit in Auckland High Court was expected to last for several more weeks, but was settled in the middle of a 17-week hearing.

Thorn said the regulations say nothing about the qualities or properties of Harditex.

“The settlement was accepted by the representative claimants on behalf of the claimants and following a process by an independent Queen’s Counsel.”

The owners had not incurred any costs to participate in the class action lawsuit, Thorn added.

James Hardie said there were two weatherproofing requests remaining in New Zealand.

He said a Wellington High Court ruling was awaited on one of the lawsuits.

The other ongoing trial, known as the Waitākere litigation, was due to begin in May 2023 in the Auckland High Court.

“The company believes it has substantial factual and legal defenses against these claims and vigorously defends them,” added James Hardie.

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