Former Christchurch City councillor Ali Jones has slammed state-owned insurance company Southern Response for saying it is appealing a landmark court decision that found it had acted in a misleading and deceptive way because it wants clarity on the law.
Ms Jones, who is also a Southern Response claimant and current community board chair for Papanui-Innes ward told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast this morning the justification was “illogical”. She said she did not see where further clarification was required.
“The decision’s been made,” she said, referring to previous rulings in court. “They should pay people.”
She said Southern Response had the ability to look back at what it had paid claimants and apply the court decision without having to appeal.
She also said “there is far more to come” with the insurance company.
“I can’t say any more than that at this stage, but the behaviour has been appalling,” Ms Jones said.
The insurer is heading to the Court of Appeal after the High Court ruled it hid information from a Christchurch couple and underpaid them by nearly $200,000.
Its CEO Anthony Honeybone said choosing to appeal was “not taken lightly”. He said it was required as “[Southern Response] haven’t got clarity” with the law and whether it needed to retrospectively apply it to previous claims.
“Treasury aren’t driving this,” he said, referring to the decision to appeal.
Mr Honeybone also said the Government had never told the insurer “told to low-ball offers”.
It is understood by 1 NEWS that the judgement against Southern Response may potentially cost taxpayers $300 million. Southern Response hid information from as many as 3000 homeowners in a similar way.
The Christchurch couple, the Dodds, said they have been left traumatised by the fight, which has dragged on for almost nine years.
Mr Honeybone said he met with the couple and was “regretful” for the “turmoil that it puts them through”.
In August, the company was found by the High Court to have "falsely represented" information, "edited" crucial documents and engaged in "misleading and deceptive conduct". Southern Response also lost in the Supreme Court.
Mr Honeybone said these findings were in relation to the Fair Trading Act, and that this meant the insurance company is justified in seeking clarity with the appeal. He said gaining clarification could prevent lengthy court processes in the future, as had happened with the Dodds.