16/08/2021·1 min to read
More good news for James Hardie as second class action dismissed
The Wellington High Court has ruled that nearly 150 homeowners have failed to prove their claim against James Hardie that its Harditex cladding product caused weathertightness issues, or that James Hardie was negligent or misleading in its conduct.
This decision, in what has been referred to as the Cridge litigation, comes hot on the heels of the recent settlement of a separate class action against James Hardie in relation to Harditex (known as the White litigation).
The High Court analysed a number of highly complex and technical issues, with both parties calling experts from New Zealand and overseas to give evidence. The trial spanned more than 16 weeks and traversed over 10,000 pages of written evidence.
The High Court determined that Harditex was not inherently flawed, was fit for purpose (that is, to provide waterproof cladding), and could be installed safely by a reasonable, competent builder.
In relation to the negligence claims, while the High Court acknowledged that James Hardie may have owed the homeowners a duty of care, it found James Hardie did not breach this duty. In particular, it said there was no breach of a duty in terms of the product itself, a duty in respect of the technical literature, or a duty to warn.
The failure to establish any defect or breach of duty meant the homeowners’ Fair Trading Act claim for misleading conduct was also unsuccessful.
As a result, the High Court concluded that the homeowners’ claim failed in its entirety. Unlike the White litigation, the Cridge litigation was self-funded by the homeowners. It remains to be seen if the homeowners will appeal the High Court decision.
A third class action involving James Hardie (known as the Waitakere litigation) is set to be heard in 2023.
Thanks to Rachael Machado and Chaowei Fan for their assistance in writing this article.