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A lawsuit against building products maker James Hardie Industries has lost its bid to let potential plaintiffs join after a December 31 cut-off date, as the law firm involved awaits a ruling on whether it can proceed as a class action.

In the High Court in Wellington last week, Justice Susan Thomas declined law firm Parker & Associates' application to prevent members in the action being ruled out of time if the class suit isn't granted when it's heard next year. Parker & Associates lost its bid for members in the class suit to be allowed to file individual claims if the representative action isn't approved.

The plaintiffs – Tracey Cridge, Mark Unwin, Scott Woodhead, and Katrina Fowler – will appeal the ruling, and lawyer Dan Parker is urging people to sign up to the class suit to allow their individual claims to be filed before the courts close on December 23.

They allege James Hardie was negligent in its design, manufacture and supply of the Harditex cladding system, claims the company has vowed to "vigorously defend". About 490 people have registered interest in joining the claim, and 40 others have formally signed up to it.

The lawsuit is one of two seeking class action status over leaky homes after Adina Thorn Lawyers launched one against plaster cladding manufacturers, and follows a Court of Appeal ruling that a Ministry of Education claim against Carter Holt Harvey isn't subject to a 10-year limitation under the Building Act.

New Zealand has yet to develop legislation for class actions, although a bill has been drafted, with representative suits evolving through court rules rather than legislation and leaving a lack of clarity over some of the procedural rules, which can lead to protracted litigation.

Source: NBR

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