Insurance lawyer turned MP Duncan Webb says the Earthquake Tribunal will be a “radical circuit breaker” for Christchurch.
Webb, now the MP for Christchurch Central, represented claimants against both EQC and insurance companies while in practice and now runs regular clinics to guide claimants.
“Problems with access to justice have plagued post-quake Christchurch. This legislation sets the scene for an informal, inquisitorial, speedy tribunal,” he says.
Many claims had stalled because of the unwieldy and expensive High Court process.
The Tribunal will be inquisitorial, giving it a mandate to avoid the conflict that has become a feature of High Court cases. Key aspects include:
- • The Tribunal can appoint its own experts to assist – so the “battle of the experts” can be avoided.
- • Mediation between the parties can be directed by the Tribunal, and settlements registered and enforced with the Tribunal.
- • Interest can be awarded from the date the ability to sue existed – so insurers who unreasonably delay will have to pay.
- • The parties must meet their own costs in all but exceptional cases so the threat of a big costs award is removed.
- • Parties can use an advocate that is not a lawyer – so other professionals can assist in technical matters.
- • Appeals are limited to ensure finality and remove the threat of endless litigation.
- Webb said the Tribunal had the potential as a model for a future civil justice system which “strikes a fair balance between procedural rigour, and a timely and cost-effective result.”
(edited media release from Duncan Webb’s office)