A class action against Australian building materials giant James Hardie has been granted a lengthy extension to sign up new claimants.
In 2016 the High Court cleared the way for a representative action against companies owned by James Hardie, but gave it only weeks to sign up new claimants.
Now the Court of Appeal has said claimants can sign up to the action for the next five months, extending the opt-in period into early 2018.
The group, which is being represented by Wellington lawyer Dan Parker, have taken a product liability claim against James Hardie New Zealand and one of its subsidiaries Studorp, alleging negligence and for breach in the Fair Trading Act in 2015.
The claim alleges cladding products sold by the companies were never suitable for use in New Zealand, leading to widespread weathertight issues.
Although a spokesman for James Hardie is yet to respond to the Court of Appeal’s decision, the company has repeatedly denied its cladding systems are defective and has indicated it will be defending all claims.
Parker said the current claimant group was drawn together relatively quickly, while many other potential claimants had been in contact, so he was confident the claimant group’s numbers would swell.
The building materials, which were in use from the late 1980s through to the early 2000s were used extensively, in all of New Zealand’s main centres, Parker said.
“Growing the group into the hundreds is very realistic,” he said.
“There’s thousands and thousands of properties in New Zealand that are built using these products. Many don’t even know, or aren’t aware of the extent of, the alleged issues.”
The extended sign up period now extends into January 2018. Parker said it was now unlikely a substantive trial would begin until 2019.