Tower to cough up $1.6 million after withholding report from Christchurch architect
Last updated 18:23, December 14 2016
Tower Insurance withheld information from a Christchurch client who has successfully sued the firm after it proposed winching his home back into place to repair it.
The High Court has ruled that Greg Young's Mt Pleasant home is beyond repair after the Canterbury earthquakes, with Young's insurer, Tower, liable to cough up $1.62 million to rebuild it.
In his ruling, Justice David Gendall agreed with a claim Tower withheld a report from Young, a top city architect.
The report said his home needed to be rebuilt.
"The plaintiff alleges that withholding the June 2011 report … which, although only a brief report, did recommend a rebuild of the house, is a serious breach of the defendant's obligation of good faith.
"I agree," Gendall said.
The move cost Tower an extra $5000 in damages.
Young's home was beyond economic repair, Gendall ruled.
Since February 2011, Tower had come up with repair costs ranging from $300,000 to $1.3m.
But Gendall ruled Tower was liable to pay just over $1.62m to rebuild the house on its existing site, elsewhere or to purchase Young another house. Young had sought more than $2m.
In addition, Tower was ordered to pay temporary accommodation costs of up to $25,000.
The judge dismissed Tower's proposal to winch Young's home back into place, which did not comply with the insurer's obligations as per its policy with Young.
The plaintiff claimed the home slid at least 100 millimetres down a hillside to the east.
The spat is one of several expensive residential earthquake disputes in Christchurch.
Others reported by Stuff include an $8.5m Redcliffs home rebuild claim, filed by Golden Homes boss Pavlos van Aalst, and a $23m claim by Sumner's Cave Rock Apartments body corporate.
CLAIMS TAKING TOLL ON TOWER
Tower's board of directors has indicated its desire to split the company into two, as it struggles with the weight of Canterbury earthquake insurance claims.
In November, while announcing a full-year loss of $21.5m, it announced plans to create two separate businesses called New Tower and RunOff Co.
The loss was partly caused by increased earthquake claims.
The "legacy of Canterbury continues to overshadow fundamental improvement", Tower said.
The rise in earthquake costs related to "constant reassessment of over-cap claims from EQC (the Earthquake Commission)".
Over the course of the year ended June 30, gross claims had increased by $78m.
"This continued cost escalation is primarily driven by EQC and litigation claims," Tower said.
There were 297 new claims as a result of EQC finally recognising they were over-cap, meaning they would cost more than EQC's $100,000 plus GST claims limit.
The company called the industry model "broken", with Canterbury claims taking too long to resolve and no slow-down in over-cap claims returning to insurers from EQC.