The Law Commission’s announcement today that it will revisit the ‘joint and several’ liability issue is to be welcomed, because it could have spin-offs for leaky home victims that are still being denied full compensation.
The existing principle of ‘joint and several’ liability means where two or more people are liable for the same loss, then each defendant will be potentially liable for the whole of the loss.
This principle has become very contentious, particularly where defendants in leaky homes cases argue they will only accept liability for their portion of the losses, and this seriously delays or stalls the whole process.
So the Law Commission’s issues paper – discussing and calling for submissions on its Review of Joint and Several Liability – could be a trigger to get things moving – although it is unclear whether it applies retrospectively, which is a different matter.
We already know about the existing ‘log-jam’ in settlements with the Financial Assistance Package. There have been reports that although 1232 owners had lodged expressions of interest by the end of September, only 35 claims were proceeding thus far and only 12 had received their final payments.
The Law Commission is now seeking views on the options for reforming the system of liability, and also for the advantages of the status quo. The closing date for submissions is Thursday 31 January 2013. This media release and a copy of the publication is available from the Law Commission website at http://www.lawcom.govt.nz/project/review-joint-and-several-liability“