Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal
Recognising that Canterbury homeowners were tired and frustrated by trying to resolve their earthquake-related insurance claims, in June 2019 the Government launched the Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal. The aim of the Tribunal, based in Christchurch and chaired by former District Court Judge Chris Somerville, is to provide a fair, flexible and cost-effective way to bring an end to disputes that have dragged on for too long, and allow people to move on with their lives.
Who can apply?
Homeowners in Canterbury can apply to the Tribunal, free of charge, if:
- they have an outstanding insurance claim involving their insurer (including Southern Response) and/or the EQC; and
- they held the insurance policy at the time the damage occurred (the Tribunal will not consider properties that have changed owners since the earthquake damage occurred).
The application is made by completing a form (https://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/canterbury-earthquakes-insurance/apply-to-the-tribunal/) and sending it, with additional documents to support the application, to the Tribunal (this can be done online or with hard copies of the documentation).
A homeowner who has a case already with the court can also apply to have the court transfer it to the Tribunal.
What happens to the application?
- The Tribunal will decide whether an application is eligible – if it is, a tribunal team is assigned to the case, and if it isn’t eligible the homeowner will be advised of other options.
- After a tribunal team is assigned, a case management conference will be arranged. A homeowner does not need to employ a lawyer to assist them, but if a lawyer is engaged, he or she will accompany the homeowner to this meeting (and all subsequent meetings). At this conference the relevant issues are identified, a timetable devised, and a decision method decided (whether mediation will take place, or whether the dispute will instead progress to a hearing). If the parties decide to try mediation, and it is unsuccessful, the dispute will then progress to a hearing.
- The Tribunal can arrange as many case management conferences as it thinks are necessary to work through the claim.
- If mediation takes place and the parties do not settle the dispute, the dispute will progress to a hearing.
- At the hearing the evidence for the parties is presented (including by any relevant experts), and the Tribunal then makes its decision. The Tribunal’s decision is binding and enforceable, but may be appealed to the High Court by a dissatisfied party.
Further information regarding the Tribunal, including the relevant application form, can be found at https://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/canterbury-earthquakes-insurance/
How we can assist you
Although you do not have to have a lawyer act for you at the Tribunal, insurers normally have lawyers act for them. The Tribunal is a judicial body and functions as something of a “specialist court”. It is certainly less formal than the High Court however the application of legal principles and precedent still apply. Accordingly we would strongly recommend homeowners engage a solicitor to represent them.
We have considerable expertise in insurance matters, in particular those relating to earthquake damage, and can assist you to apply to the Tribunal, and represent your interests at each step of the process (in particular at a mediation or hearing).
If you have any questions about the Tribunal, and whether it is the right option for your claim, please contact us.