Quake claims by the trunkload

By Joanne Carroll

Carboot lawyer doing all he can to hasten insurance settlements.

Lawyer Grant Shand says experience on leaky building litigation serves him well on earthquake claims. Photo / Michael Craig
Lawyer Grant Shand says experience on leaky building litigation serves him well on earthquake claims. Photo / Michael Craig

Meet the carboot lawyer who wings in and out of Christchurch with a huge caseload on behalf of desperate quake-struck homeowners.

Auckland leaky-home specialist Grant Shand carries the hopes of more than 100 people who are fighting EQC and insurance companies.

Shand has more earthquake clients than any other lawyer in Christchurch. Of the 86 cases on the High Court list there last week, his name was bracketed with 38.

The single 44-year-old works from a rental car and bunks with friends or at a motel.

"There is no accommodation in Christchurch. They call them carboot lawyers in New Zealand. I do have access to office facilities like a printer and a fax machine but all I need is a car and a laptop," he said.

He travels home regularly to Auckland's Clarks Beach - usually flying stand-by.

Shand said he moved from leaky buildings to quake damage because the same skills were required.

"I know how insurance companies work. I worked for seven years in leaky buildings, suing councils and builders. Also, there is so much opportunity for work in Christchurch. Leaky building litigation is coming to an end and the earthquake work is just beginning."

Shand took the first test case to the High Court at Christchurch for Dallington couple Matt and Valerie O'Loughlin. Insurance claim adjusters WorldClaim, which estimated the claim to be worth $1.3m, referred them to him.

The couple sought a payout cap of $888,000 from Tower Insurance Ltd after rejecting $337,000 to repair their broken house.

The High Court ruled Tower Insurance should pay the full replacement value but stopped short of a decision that could open all red zone claims for the full insured value.

Shand said the final payout was confidential, and he wouldn't discuss his fee. However, he estimated it cost $5000 to get a case to court.

"Word of mouth is a big thing in Christchurch. It's a huge market. There are thousands of clients out there. There's about 10 years of litigation to be done in Christchurch and then there'll be people suing builders for work done. It's worth billions," he said.

He said he could cope with the workload. "It's easy. The issues are similar for all my clients. The court has been designed to process cases quickly. It is better for people to get into the court system because it enforces action on the insurance companies. People have been waiting too long, it's stupid," he said.

Shand began working for Christchurch clients in April 2011 while still working for specialist leaky home law firm Grimshaw & Co in Auckland. He was prevented from working on leaky homes for four months under his contract with Grimshaw but now has added a few clients in Auckland.

Shand's daughters, 18 and 20, are studying law and commerce at Otago University. "They had to or I wouldn't pay for it."

He also owns a share in the Super City Rangers national league basketball team.

Valerie O'Loughlin declined to discuss her claim but said she was happy with Shand's work. "He did the job for us," she said.

Home Owners and Buyers Association president John Gray said: "I applaud Grant Shand for keeping costs down and meeting the people but it will come a time when a lawyer needs to be in chambers concentrating on matters in hand."

- Herald on Sunday

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