Friday , November 27 2020

Elderly couple wins protracted court battle with insurance company IAG over earthquake repairs



Alan and Joan Sleight lived almost 50 years at their home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Christchurch.

But the last 10 have been difficult.

The retired couple, 87 and 81, respectively, have just won a protracted battle over the sights and repairs to their earthquake-damaged home.

The High Court ruled in favor of the Sleights after they sued their IAG insurer, the project managers Hawkins Management Ltd and the builders Farrell Residential Ltd – the latter two both in liquidation.

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The reserved trial held all defendants responsible for the costs of $ 389,848 to repair Hillmorton’s home according to the “when new” policy standard.

“I feel more relieved than a long time ago,” said Alan Sleight Thing on Monday.

Alan and Joan Sleight, who won a lawsuit against their insurers, repair managers and builders over failed earthquake repairs.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON / Things

Alan and Joan Sleight, who won a lawsuit against their insurers, repair managers and builders over unsuccessful earthquake repairs.

Two years ago, the couple wanted to reduce the size of their property to something easier due to health problems. But they were unable to sell because of the damage.

Sleight said they now need time to think and talk about what will happen next, after years of uncertainty and concern, a three-year lawsuit and four months of waiting for the decision.

Who will pay the pending costs, including attorney’s fees, has yet to be decided. Prestigious fears, even if costs are attributed, they will be left well out of pocket.

The fight has already cost them the Kaikoura bach, which they had to sell to pay for the repair bills. The family also helped financially.

The couple’s son-in-law, Nigel Maxey, said he was satisfied with the victory, but would not bring back the years and health that the Sleights had lost.

The Sleights' house before the earthquake repairs.

Iain McGregor / Stuff

The Sleights’ house before the earthquake repairs.

“Alan and Joan should be in control of their own lives, making decisions about how to live their twilight years. Instead, they’ve had a terrible nightmare to navigate for the past six years. ”

“It’s been an incredible strain for the whole family,” said Maxey, who has helped the couple in the fight.

The IAG described the Sleight process as a “test case”, being the first to determine whether the insurer was responsible for the defective work performed by the builders under its managed repair scheme.

The house was damaged in the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes. The IAG decided to repair rather than rebuild.

The couple’s insurance policy referred to a reinstatement standard for “a condition as similar as possible to when it was new”.

The problems started six months after repair work started in February 2014.

With the brick cladding needing to be replaced and a new foundation needed, the $ 319,000 job should have been completed in about six months.

Maxey said he got involved when the project was significantly delayed and found that there were problems with repairs.

Alan Sleight says he is relieved, but he and Joan need time to think about what they are going to do now.

Iain McGregor / Stuff

Alan Sleight says he is relieved, but he and Joan need time to think about what they are going to do now.

“As we were increasingly concerned with the quality of the work, we had to hire independent experts to verify the work that Farrells had done. It was clear that there were major problems with the repairs, that the parties involved either did not want or were unable to resolve, ”said Maxey.

Most of the defects were due to the way the builders had installed the cladding and the tightness of the windows. Many other problems were minor and cosmetic, but they soon added up.

The Sleights terminated their construction contract in 2015 and returned to the IAG, which told them that their contract was the responsibility of Farrells, not the insurer, Maxey said.

The couple felt that, since the IAG chose builders and supervisors through its managed repair scheme, it should have taken responsibility for the defects that its experts claim to cost $ 360,000.

However, the IAG insisted that it was not responsible, as the construction contract was between the Sleights and Farrells. However, he commissioned his own report that confirmed most of the defects found by the Sleights experts.

Maxey said it was clear that the IAG and Hawkins drafted the contract to exclude both from any liability.

“It was a long and exhaustive process, but the court decided that the defendants were responsible because the repair work did not meet the policy standard and they violated the Consumer Guarantee Act.”

An IAG spokeswoman said the insurer was satisfied with the result and would not contest it.

“We have done everything in our power to conclude this matter. The IAG contributed $ 120,000 to Mr. and Mrs. Sleight’s legal fees for this case, as we wanted to find a solution for them with Hawkins and QBE [Hawkins’ insurer],” she said.

The Christchurch earthquakes were an “unprecedented event, which has led to many complex insurance claims, often involving other parties”.

“Unfortunately, due to the uniqueness of this case and the parties involved, the resolution for Mr. and Mrs. Sleight was unclear.”

Hawkins was approached for comment.


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