Crown to appeal precedent-setting Southern Response judgment

The judgment “left some important unanswered questions,” a minister says

Crown to appeal precedent-setting Southern Response judgment

The Crown will appeal the precedent-setting judgment handed down against Southern Response last month.

Grant Robertson, the minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission, said that Attorney-General David Parker has advised that the Crown, through Southern Response, will appeal the High Court decision in the K. & A. Dodds v Southern Response Earthquake Services Ltd case.

“The government wants to find a fair and enduring resolution for the outstanding Canterbury earthquake claims. We are committed to doing what is right and ensuring people are paid what they are entitled to,” Robertson said. “It is our intention that the clarity that will come from the outcome of these proceedings will enable the Crown to work with Southern Response to provide a soundly based proactive solution to those people that are affected.”

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Justice David Gendall said in the judgment that the Crown-owned earthquake-claims company acted in a “misleading and deceptive” manner in assessing the total rebuild costs for the earthquake-damaged home of Karl and Alison Dodds. The Doddses were awarded $178,894.30, plus interests and costs.

Peter Woods, the Anthony Harper litigation partner who represented the Doddses in the case, said then that the judgment affects not only the Doddses, but about 3,000 homeowners who settled their insurance claims with Southern Response based on the assessment that was at the centre of the case. By Southern Response’s own estimates in the case, hundreds of millions are at stake.

Robertson said, however, that the judgment “left some important unanswered questions,” which is why the Crown is taking the case to the Court of Appeal “to seek more certainty in this situation” for claimants and Southern Response.

“This case is about what happens to historical insurance settlements if the law changes – does Southern Response have a legal obligation to go back in time and pay customers more than they were entitled to at the time their claim was settled?” Robertson said.

The minister said that he met with the Doddses on Thursday, along with the Dr Megan Woods, who holds the housing and the Greater Christchurch Regeneration portfolios, and representatives of Southern Response.

“I am sorry for the situation they find themselves in, and I recognise that this next step is not what they would have hoped for. In recognition of that the Crown, through Southern Response, has offered to pay their legal costs to date, and cover their reasonable legal costs for the Court of Appeal case,” Robertson said. “I would like this case to be heard as quickly as possible. To that end Southern Response intends to ask the court for a priority fixture if both parties agree.”

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