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Case History

GCA Lawyers specialises in complex matters. The following are some of the proceedings and class actions conducted by the firm.

Southern Response Concealment Class Action v Southern Response Earthquake Services Ltd
(Current)

GCA filed a class action in the Christchurch High Court in June 2018 on behalf of about 3000 claimants who allege that SRESL concealed information relevant to their claim settlements. GCA secured litigation funding support from Claims Funding Australia, a litigation funder wholly owned by Maurice Blackburn, Australia's largest class action law firm.

If you wish to register your interest in joining the class action you may do so at: www.southernresponseclassaction.co.nz or visit our SRCCA page for more information.

Southern Response Unresolved Claims Group v Southern Response Earthquake Services Ltd 
(2015–2018)

GCA advanced a class action for former AMI policyholders, against SRESL, and organised litigation funding support. The proceedings alleged that Southern Response applied ‘a deliberate strategy to minimise policyholders claim entitlements’ in breach of the insurance policy and the law. After the Court of Appeal permitted the case to proceed the government quickly moved to settle the claims and proceedings were formally discontinued. A specialised private determination process then proceeded before retired-Justice Panckhurst to finalise quantum due to each policyholder.

Karlie Margaret Smith v Grant Shand Solicitors & Claims Resolution Services Ltd.

(Current)

Karlie Smith is representative in a class action alleging breach of fiduciary duty against the defendants, arising out of their handling of earthquake claims for class members. Potentially the class comprises all former CRS or Grant Shand clients who contracted for services in regard to their insurance or EQC claims.

Quake Outcasts Part Two 

(2012–2018)

The Earthquake Minister was required to reconsider and make a fresh offer to uninsured red zone owners. The Quake Outcasts group filed a fresh action to judicially review this second Ministerial decision. The group lost in the High Court but on appeal, the Court of Appeal found* Minister Brownlee’s actions to have been unfair, unreasonable and unlawful. All Crown arguments in support of the Minister’s decision, were rejected.    The Crown then settled. Publicly, the National government announced that Quake Outcasts members received ‘only 80%’ of the 2007 value of their improvements, but an interest component saw clients receive about 105% with a substantial costs payment in addition. 

As National would only settle the claims of those persons in the action, with a change of government GCA lobbied the new government seeking payment for all uninsured homeowners in red zones to receive their full entitlements. In August 2018 the Labour government confirmed it would pay $12M to over 100 remaining uninsured homeowners in full and final settlement of this affair. 
*Quake Outcasts v The Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority [2017] NZCA 332

Quake Outcasts Part One 

(2012–2018)

The firm represented 46 owners of uninsured property in ‘red zones’ created after the February 2011 quake. The Crown sought to buy insured owner’s properties for the 2007 Rateable Value, but offered the uninsured owners, only half the value of the land alone. The action addressed the Crown’s right to acquire citizen’s land for less than fair market value and raised constitutional, property and human rights issues. The group succeeded before the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in a first round of judicial review*.
*Quake Outcasts v The Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recover [2016] NSSC 166  

Quake Families 

(2011–2013)

GCA acted for about 55 families who lost loved ones in the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011. Representation was arranged for the group before the Royal Commission of Inquiry, where all matters of concern as to future prevention and related issues, were resolved.

Concerned Dairymen's Association v NZ Board & Livestock Improvement Corporation

(1998–2005)

An action commenced for 265 dairy farmers who claimed that the NZDB and the LIC were commercially motivated when they introduced a new animal evaluation model in 1996*. The claim was particularly complex and alleged misleading and deceptive conduct in developing the new model and that the resultant product was defective. The case lasted several years and was partially funded by large American corporations. It ultimately failed before the Court of Appeal.
*Among other things, the animal evaluation model uses all NZ herd testing data to produce supposedly reliable information against which farmers can make appropriate culling and breeding decisions.

Tory Channel Property Owners v Fast Ferry operators 

(2000)

GCA acted for a large number of property owners in Queen Charlotte Sound who were adversely affected by the wave action caused upon the introduction of new ‘fast ferries’ between Picton and Wellington. Although a class action based on ‘nuisance’ was formed and the GCA lobbied government and achieved immediate Ministerial intervention. This led to the Marlborough District Council introducing appropriate restrictions which slowed the boats (and subsequently, one Ferry operator went out of business).

Southern Cardiothoracic Institute v Minister of Health 

(1998–2000)

GCA acted for South Island cardiac surgeons (SCI) when the government cancelled their contract to provide cardiothoracic services to patients. Proceedings for breach of contract were filed and substantial settlement was achieved on terms favourable to the surgeons.

Spinally Injured Rugby Players v NZRFU

(1994–95)

This was a pro bono matter taken on behalf of 30 former rugby players who had suffered serious spinal injuries whilst playing rugby. Initially, the NZRFU took the view that injured players were “no longer members of the Union” and so owed them no duty. However, sustained media pressure resulted in the Union reviewing all cases and making changes to rules and training regimes etc. An insurance scheme was introduced securing immediate payment for any future victims. The Union also committed to pay several million dollars into a trust administered by the Rugby Foundation to assist both existing and future victims.

Children of Lake Alice v The Crown

(1997–2001)

The claim arose principally from torture applied to nearly 300 children in Department of Social Welfare custody. All were state wards and a child psychologist systematically applied Electroconvulsive ‘treatment’ as a punishment regime, without any medical basis for doing so and without any pretense of following correct medical processes. A class action was brought against the Crown alleging breach of fiduciary duty and negligence. GCA represented 95 clients and recovered $6.5M and costs. The firm’s work also gave rise to a second process and the firm acted for another group of clients in that process. This resulted in further significant payouts for the firm’s clients and many millions to third parties.

Opuha Dam

(1997)

Civil claims were initiated for a large number of farmers who were adversely effected by the sudden collapse of the Opuha Dam. All claims were promptly settled following offers from the dam owners.

The Survivors, Estates and Families of Victims of Cave Creek disaster v The Crown
(1995–1996)

On the 28 April 1995 a Department of Conservation viewing platform over the Cave Creek ravine (West Coast) collapsed, resulting in the deaths of 14 persons and serious injuries to four others. The Attorney-General appointed Grant Cameron to represent the estates, families and survivors through the subsequent Commission of Inquiry. That inquiry took many weeks and upon its conclusion, a civil action was brought against the Crown. (Principally, the proceedings were founded on 'nervous shock' tort claims and breach of fiduciary duty. Both compensatory and exemplary damages were sought). A specialist 'determination' process was agreed with the Crown where claims were heard in private before Sir Duncan Mcmullen, a retired Judge of the Court of Appeal. Substantial awards were made to all claimants.

Cancer misdiagnosis victims v Goodhealth Wanganui and Residual Health Management Unity
(1994–2001)

The action was on behalf of a large group of women who suffered cancer misdiagnoses through negligence at Goodhealth Wanganui. (Some women were never treated for cancer conditions they suffered, and others suffered operations or other treatments when they did not have cancer at all). A leading edge case at the time on the availability of exemplary damages outside the statutory bar on personal injury actions (arising under NZ's statutory accident compensation regime). Litigation traversed many years but the case was ultimately resolved with the Crown offering a very attractive and beneficial statements to all clients.

Renshaw Edwards v New Zealand Law Society
(1992–93)

The firm acted for 250 people who lost funds invested in Henshaw Edwards (Solicitors Nominee Company). The law firm collapsed as a result fraud by two of the partners. GCA brought claims against the NZLS Solicitors Fidelity Guarantee Scheme following convictions being entered against those former partners. The NZLS denied liability and the case caused much public controversy. GCA quickly obtained judgment (March 1993) and every NZ law firm partner had to then pay the sum of $10,000 into the Fidelity Guarantee Scheme, so the judgment could be met. The firm also negotiated a further $4.5M in costs and interest bringing the total recoveries to over $12M.

Morgan Jones v TranzRail
(1994)

Morgan Jones, a child, fell through a safety rail onto the railway track near Kaikoura and suffered very serious injuries. An action was brought against TranzRail for exemplary damages. The case was settled on very advantageous terms.

Whale Watch v Transport Accident Investigation Commission 
(1996)

Whale Watch suffered the capsize of one of its whale watching boats and a Taiwanese tourist was killed. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission initially product a report that indicated that Whale Watch had been negligent but through subsequent proceedings, the TAIC completely changed its stance and the matter was amicable resolved and the company was exonerated.

Re-Mark-It Holdings Ltd v NZUC & Dymock
(1994–2003)

An intellectual property case about patents valued at US$32M. The action was brought on behalf of the inventor of a novel reusable label system and was directed against a former business partner who had commenced a pirate manufacturing operation in Holland. GCA was able to force the Dutch company out of existence and the overall dispute was resolved completely in GCA's client's favour.

Paul Zentveld v Crown
(2001–2004)

A derivative of the Lake Alice class action which alleged corrupt practices by government agencies in the course of the Crown making payouts to claimants following a second round of determinations by retired Court of Appeal Judge, Sir Rodney Gallen. Mr Zentveld's claims were upheld by the court and he received his full entitlement under the Determination, damages and costs. A very large number of other claimants were then correctly paid.

Estate of Felix Penny v Emmuljunga
(1997–1998)

Felix Penny, a baby, was killed in the collapse of the Swedish pram in which he was sleeping. Initially, the manufacturer resisted the claims brought against it, but later negotiated a settlement.

Ewan Robert Carr and Brookside Farm Trust Limited v Galloway Cook Allan
[2014] NZSC 75

Mr Carr sought and obtained, the setting aside of an arbitration agreement and decision, on the basis of mutual mistake.

Estate of Liam Ashley v Corrections & Chubb NZ Ltd 
(2006–2007)

Following Liam's murder in the back of a Corrections Department's prison van GCA brought a successful action against the Crown.

Various professional negligence claims

GCA is regularly instructed in relation to professional negligence claims against lawyers and other professionals.

Drummond v Taranaki Hospital Board
(1994–96)

An action brought in Australia over the wrongful administering of a radioactive iodine pill resulting in extreme radiation exposure.

Various Police Officers v Commissioner of Police
(2013–2014)

This was a defamation claim brought against the Commissioner after an Assistant Commissioner made false and defamatory comments about the officers, during a major employment dispute. Proceedings were filed and a substantial settlement was quickly secured.