Michael Thornton, Barrister and Solicitor, is a specialist litigation firm based in Auckland’s CBD.
We have a wealth of experience in all aspects of commercial litigation with a particular focus on litigation generated through building issues.
Our main areas of practice are construction disputes, landlord and tenant law, and insurance.
Time limitations clarified by appellate court in leaky homes claimsAppellate courts have delivered significant judgments in the never-ending leaky buildings saga.
Michael Thornton talks to NBR Radio’s Grant Walker. Listen now. (7mins 18secs)
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Since 2005 our team has specialised in all aspects of leaky building litigation. We achieve compensation for homeowners and bodies corporate to repair their leaky houses, apartments and units. We also represent parties being sued: generally developers, builders and other tradespeople, their companies and their directors; sometimes parties who did not perform the original construction work, such as pre-purchase inspectors or former owners.
Our team has extensive experience in all aspects of commercial litigation. We have been involved in resolving contract and negligence disputes encompassing a diverse range of subject matter, such as ocean going yachts, real estate, second hand truck engines, and the supply of animal feed.
Our team has extensive experience in all aspects of insurance law and routinely advises on issues of policy coverage, including exclusion clauses, particularly in the context of public liability and professional negligence policies.
We act for owners of commercial and retail premises, including several shopping malls. Our team advises landlords regarding lease disputes, such as make good/reinstatement obligations, and recovering unpaid rent.
The firm has expertise in bringing and defending claims made under the Construction Contracts Act. Our focus is to achieve the most cost effective outcome that meets our clients’ needs.
Our team will guide you through the applicable process and advise the best strategy suited to your needs.
We recommend an initial meeting to enable us to understand your particular situation.
Attached below are example documents outlining possible processes depending on your situation:
IMPORTANT GUIDELINES DEFINING OUR OBLIGATIONS
News & Articles
Auckland lawyer Mike Thornton, a specialist in leaky building cases, says many people in the Brown’s predicament have sued Auckland Council for issuing a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC) for a defective building.
The High Court held a dispute resolution clause in a homeowners’ contract with their builder to build their house did not prevent them cancelling the contract when the builder left site due to non-payment of invoices.
Finds a wide variation in the standard of reporting, and calls for a licensing scheme. MBIE has shown no interest in reform so far.
The recent High Court decision holding Hawkins Construction liable to pay $13.4m plus GST to repair a leaky school has been in the news, probably because of the size of the judgment (though it's not the biggest leaky building judgment) and that it is a school with a role of nearly 2000.
Can you sue the person who sells you their leaky house because before you bought they told you it wasn’t? The answer is: no, though it may depend on what court you end up in.
The High Court said yes: Mason v Magee  NZHC 51.
The Court of Appeal said no: Magee v Mason  NZCA 502
A recent High Court decision has confirmed that the ownership of an apartment as part of a unit title is not “all for one, one for all” when it comes to decision making. The wishes of the majority can override the interests of a minority.
I came across this broadcast where Ali Mau was joined by John Green, Director of Building Dispute Tribunal and BuildSafe, covering what you should do before getting a builder in for a renovation or build.
Here’s a concise distillation of the elements of effective building legislation by Kim Lovegrove FAIB.
Michael Thornton talks to NBR Radio’s Grant Walker.
New Zealand appellate courts delivered significant judgments just before Xmas in the never-ending leaky building saga.
As of 1 March 2017, the amount claimable in the District Court will increase from $200,000 to $350,000 (The District Court Act 2016).
The Construction Contracts Act 2002, a statute designed to ensure a cash flow on building projects, now applies to building professionals (e.g. engineers, architects, quantity surveyors), carrying out work for construction projects.
The Supreme Court has dismissed an attempt by Carter Holt Harvey to strike out a case against it in respect of leaky schools allegedly arising from its negligent manufacture of cladding material.
A lifestyle block owner recovered from two insurers the costs of fighting a fire which spread from a burn heap on their Canterbury property to neighbouring properties. The property was insured with AMI, and their landscaping business was insured with Lumley.
In a recent appeal from the District Court, the High Court has confirmed that unit-owners in Body Corporates cannot refuse to pay portions of the levies because they do not agree with the purpose for which levies have been struck.
The Court of Appeal held recently that the powers provided to a body corporate (under the Unit Titles Act 2010 (“the Act”)) to carry out repairs to a complex to the benefit of all owners, trump individual owners’ rights to choose how, when and whether they repair and maintain their units.
In Body Corporate 204299 & Sayer v Whyte & Ors  NZHC 1164 the High Court held that where the division of property between private and common property in a body corporate complex are ‘skewed’ in favour of some owners, the court will not intervene to ameliorate its effect on other owners when the complex is being repaired, as to do so would disturb the contractual rights which the owners acquired when buying into a unit title development.
The Supreme Court has granted leave to an investor in Ross Asset Management (RAM) to appeal the Court of Appeal's decision ordering him to repay the (fictitious) profits, but not his original investment, to the liquidators of RAM.
A notice in the Herald on Sunday warned that a key deadline for leaky homeowners happens on 27 June 2016 when applications for the Financial Assistance Package (FAP) close.
The Court of Appeal recently dismissed an attempt by the solicitors for an issuer of securities to strike out a claim against them for losses suffered by the investors in those securities on the basis that the law firm could not owe duties of care to the investors who were not its clients.
A recent decision in the High Court in Rotorua illustrates the importance of reading contractual documents prior to signing them. A drilling company was held bound by the terms of an exclusion clause in a contract with a supplier preventing it from recovering all of its losses alleged caused by the supplier negligently carrying out repair work to drilling equipment.
In a recent decision (Minister of Education & Ors v Carter Holt Harvey Limited  NZHC 681 (4 April 2014) the High Court allowed leaky building claims against a manufacturer of a cladding system to continue to trial even though the claims related to buildings constructed ten years before the issue of proceedings. (PDF)
A recent report on National Radio confirmed that the government’s Financial Assistance Package (“FAP”) to leaky home owners has failed to make even a small dent in the number of leaky homes.
The FAP was established in 2011 as a repair scheme enabling leaky home owners to access funds from the government and participating territorial authorities to fix their homes.
Members of the firm were involved in 2011 in two decisions of the Auckland High Court in relation to the Fair Trading Act 1986 (“FTA”).
Late last year, the Supreme Court bought some Christmas cheer to the thousands of leaky home owners when it dismissed appeals by North Shore City Council against the decisions in Sunset Terraces/Byron Avenue in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
The Department of Building and Housing recently provided additional information about the proposed government assistance package for leaky home owners (see attached). While the scheme will not be finalised until 2011, the announcement does clarify certain aspects of the scheme which impacts upon eligibility for it.
The Court of Appeal has emphatically rejected an attempt by territorial authorities to limit or reduce their ongoing exposure to leaky building claims.
In the leaky building context, the personal liability of directors of development companies, continues to generate much jurisprudence. A recent decision of Heath J held that where a director is found to have assumed responsibly for the way in which work is carried out on a building project and defects result, personal liability will likely follow.
The Sunset trial was lengthy, taking nearly six weeks of court time. The body corporate and four of the 17 individual home owners were successful. While the case was not a “win” overall for all of the home owners, it was a good outcome for other leaky home owners (PDF)