A hearing for one of the largest class action lawsuits in New Zealand against cladding manufacturer James Hardie is underway at the Auckland High Court today.
More than 1000 homeowners are taking action against various James Hardie group companies, claiming negligence in design, manufacture and supply of its cladding systems including Harditex, Monotek and Titan Board products.
Preliminary estimates set the claim at $250 million.
In total 365 buildings are part of the suit including 29 large body corporates, which span several decades.
Only four properties are non-residential.
The plaintiffs claim they have suffered financial loss and significant health issues as a result of their leaky buildings.
Two of the seven James Hardie defendant companies, James Hardie NZ Holdings and RCI Holdings, have applied for an early judgement in their favour arguing that as shareholders they do not play an operational part in the products supplied and therefore shouldn't be held liable in the suit.
While the parent groups, James Hardie industries, opposed the claim being heard in New Zealand.
However, Mark O'Brien QC says James Hardie as a brand promotes itself as a "world leader in fibre cement building products", and as such has a duty of care to its customers.
He adds the defendants are in breach of the Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act.
Last month, the High Court ruled 15 new plaintiffs could join the action, a decision that has been contested by James Hardie.
The hearing is set to last three days.