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Invercargill City Council v Hamlin [1996] 1 NZLR 513

Donoghue v Stevenson concerned a faulty chattel, but in time the courts determined that no distinction could be drawn between negligent manufacturing and negligent building.


Hamlin is the leading precedent in respect of council liability in New Zealand and it marks a departure from other Commonwealth jurisdictions.  The case proceeded to the Privy Council in respect of two issues – whether the council owed a duty of care to subsequent purchasers and when time started running for limitation purposes when latent building defects existed.


The Privy Council upheld the New Zealand Court of Appeal’s decision.  Hamlin recognises that councils in this country owe a duty of care to subsequent purchasers.  It also confirms that time starts running when defects become so bad that they are obvious to any prospective purchaser and cause the homeowner economic loss.

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