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Homeowner High Court Insurance Win A Decade After Canterbury September Earthquake

“Numb.”

That’s how the family of an elderly couple have described feeling after a decision handed down by the High Court in Christchurch on Friday. The case has been described as a “test case” by IAG, as it is the first case to determine whether IAG has liability for defective work done by builders under IAG’s managed repair scheme.

Alan and Joan Sleight, who are aged 87 and 81 respectively, took their insurer IAG, project managers Hawkins Management Ltd, and builders Farrell Residential Ltd to court more than three years ago after IAG refused to accept liability for defective repairs and scoping shortfalls in the work carried out by, Farrell Residential Ltd.

In the reserved decision released on Friday, the High Court has found all defendants liable for $389,848 being the costs to repair the earthquake damaged house in Christchurch, to the policy standard of “when new”.

The Sleight’s son-in-law, Nigel Maxey, who has been assisting the couple, says the win is a relief but it won’t give his parents-in-law back the years and health they have lost.

“Alan and Joan should have been in control of their own lives, making decisions about how to live out their twilight years. Instead they’ve had an appalling nightmare to navigate over the last six years,” he says. “It has been an incredible strain on the whole family.”

The problems started six months after the repair work began in February 2014. With brick cladding needing to be replaced and a new foundation required, the $319,000 job should have been completed in around six months.

When it became apparent that the project was significantly behind schedule, Nigel got involved to help keep things moving and he found there were also issues with the quality of work.

“As we became increasingly concerned about the quality of work, we had to engage independent experts to check the work Farrells had done. It became clear there were major problems with the repairs, that the parties involved were either unwilling or incapable of resolving.” says Maxey.

“We terminated the contract in 2015, went back to IAG who basically said, sorry, the contract is between you and Farrell’s, this is nothing to do with us. Then it became clear that IAG and their Project Manager, Hawkins, had drafted the contract to exclude both of them from any liability. It has been a long and exhausting process, but the Court has decided that the defendants were liable because the repair work did not meet the policy standard and they were in breach of the Consumer Guarantees Act.”

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