Lucia Pfisterer’s claims have been rejected by the High Court.
A woman who sought damages from her earthquake advocate and lawyer must pay them $225,000.
At a hearing in October 2020, language teacher Lucia Pfisterer alleged Claims Resolution Services, owned by Bryan Staples, and law firm Grant Shand Solicitors breached their obligations to act in her best interests and misrepresented their services.
She said she should not have to pay Claims Resolution $93,000 (its commission and costs on an insurance settlement it brokered) and claimed damages.
The case was believed to be a test case for a class action against Claims Resolution.
* Quake champion Bryan Staples and lawyer Grant Shand fail to stop class action
* Insurance claimant accepted low payout after she ‘ran out of energy and money’
* Householder felt ‘betrayed’ by earthquake advisers
Justice Anne Hinton found against Pfisterer and ordered her to pay the $93,000.
Claims Resolution and Grant Shand Solicitors then sought costs.
In a decision released on Friday, Justice Hinton awarded Claims Resolution $150,000 for solicitor-client costs and $5061 for disbursements, and awarded Grant Shand costs of $62,834 and $7515 for disbursements.
Pfisterer bought her house in Fifield Tce, St Martins, in 2009 for $351,500. After it was badly damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes, she spent two years wrangling with Southern Response and the Earthquake Commission (EQC). Mould developed throughout the house and the walls and foundations had substantial cracks.
EQC initially told her the house could be repaired for $20,000 but in 2013 paid out her over-cap entitlement of $117,136 and referred the claim to Southern Response, which assessed the house repair cost at $321,869.
In late 2013, Pfisterer sought the help of Earthquake Services, a Staples company that operated a “no win, no pay’’ service. On a “win”, the householder would have to pay legal and all other costs and pay a commission to Claims Resolution.
A Christchurch couple locked in an ongoing legal battle with Southern Response says it is sobering for a Court of Appeal decision to go their way, one decade on from the harrowing earthquakes. (Video first published in September 2020)
An initial damage assessment performed by 8D Project Management (8D), a company partly owned by Staples, estimated the cost of repairing Pfisterer’s house at $816,340 and a rebuild at $946,710.
In June 2014, Southern Response advised the cost of repairing Pfisterer’s house was $354,676. It would also deduct the EQC payment she had already received.
Grant Shand Solicitors filed proceedings against Southern Response in July 2014. A new assessment put the cost of repair at $969,429, allowing about $300,000 for enhanced foundations. Southern Response, in August 2015, offered a settlement of $467,000.
Two days before the trial was to start on April 26, 2016, Southern Response offered $500,000 cash with no deduction of the EQC payment, $25,000 for demolition costs and if she elected to rebuild on the site, it would pay $303,346 for the enhanced foundations.
Pfisterer rejected the offer but eventually settled for a similar amount.