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Sydney Opal Tower class-action lawsuit 42-day delay ‘doesn’t make sense’, judge says

By Jamie McKinnell

9 AUGUST 2019

A high rise tower in the distance with a road in the foreground.

PHOTO: Opal Tower’s woes have sparked questions about the building industry (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

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A judge has blasted a rule giving the New South Wales Government another month before it needs to respond to a multi-million-dollar class action over Sydney’s notorious Opal Tower.

Key points:

  • The owners lodged a multi-million-dollar compensation claim against the State Government in July
  • The lawsuit claims the $170 million complex was not constructed with “due care and skill”
  • Opal Tower was evacuated on Christmas Eve after residents heard a loud cracking noise

Supreme Court justice David Hammerschlag vowed to deal with the case “expeditiously” and said it “doesn’t make sense” to have a month-long hiatus before the proceedings gather pace.

The ABC exclusively revealed last month that owners of Opal Tower units are seeking millions of dollars in compensation from the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA), after they were forced to flee the building on Christmas Eve when cracks appeared in the foundations.

SOPA is a NSW State Government-controlled entity which owns the land on which the tower was built.

The case was heard for the first time during a Supreme Court directions hearing, where the parties discussed a practice note from the Chief Justice which dictates the next step in legal proceedings must take place 42 days after the filing of the proceedings.

The rule cites the “unique complexities” presented by class actions compared to other forms of litigation.

The barrister for the residents, Nicholas Owens SC, told the court the case had not come as a surprise and any delay was unsatisfactory.

“Your Honour knows there have been independent experts engaged by the state,” he said.

“They’ve looked at [the building], they’ve worked out what’s gone wrong — this hasn’t come out of the blue

A sign that says 'no stopping' in the foreground in front of a tall apartment building, Opal Tower.

PHOTO: Opal Tower was evacuated on Christmas Eve after a concrete panel cracked. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

‘This case will come on quickly’

Justice Hammerschlag described the situation as “swings and roundabouts” and set another directions hearing for September.

“I propose to make comprehensive directions to ensure these proceedings are resolved expeditiously [in September],” he said.

“I’ll give you one assurance, this case will come on quickly.”

Justice Hammerschlag said he intended to write to the Chief Justice about the practice note.

“It doesn’t make sense at the moment to have this 42 day hiatus period,” he said.

“It’s a historical work which I think has its origins elsewhere.”

The lawsuit claims a breach of the Home Building Act.

It claims the $170 million complex was not constructed with “due care and skill”, that the tower was not built in accordance with the plans and specifications and was not “reasonably fit for occupation”.

Hundreds of owners have been in temporary accommodation for more than seven months.

They claim losses due to a drop in the valuation of the apartments, along with a loss from rental value.

Some residents had finally returned to their homes last week only to find the water wasn’t working.

A concrete floor next to a glass sliding door appears significantly cracked. A person's show is visible in the corner of shot.

PHOTO: Opal Tower cracking shows damage on the floor of level 10. (Supplied)

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-09/sydney-opal-tower-class-action-lawsuit-proceedings-delayed/11398794