Leading litigation team explores key trends shaping New Zealand's future

  • Firm news

    15 February 2024

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MinterEllisonRuddWatts has launched its annual Litigation Forecast, offering insights and analysis on key trends and emerging issues likely to shape New Zealand’s legal litigation landscape in 2024.

The legal landscape continues to evolve, reflecting the complexities of life in New Zealand.

“Litigation serves as a barometer of society's concerns, highlighting the matters that impact us most,” says Jane Standage, a Partner in the firm’s Litigation team. 

“This year's forecast looks at some of the most critical issues facing New Zealanders, from the ongoing challenges of climate change to the rapidly evolving digital landscape.”

The Litigation Forecast 2024 explores the complex matrix of liability for private companies and the latest trends in climate change litigation and greenwashing around the world. 

“The Supreme Court’s recent landmark decision in Smith v Fonterra & Ors allows claims brought by a climate change activist against seven corporate defendants to proceed to trial. This is an important decision relevant to all large corporates as it opens a previously locked door for future environmental litigation – it will now be harder for corporations to swiftly shut down such claims,” says Jane Standage. 

“While ultimate outcomes remain uncertain, the decision marks a pivotal step for activist efforts against corporate climate impact.”

Another issue facing directors and boards is cyber-crime and its associated risks, including the protection of legal privilege. Litigation Partner Andrew Horne believes company boards should take note of increased cyber-crimes leading to litigation. 

“Directors and boards need to understand how to mitigate cybersecurity risks and respond to a cyber incident should one occur. They need to have a strong cyber response plan that provides for more than the initial IT response – it must also prepare the legal risk that follow including privacy and data protection and wider reputation risks,” says Andrew Horne. 

“Our forecast outlines what directors and boards should address now from a legal perspective, and it also provides best steps to counter issues that could arise in a changing regulatory landscape.”

MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ Litigation Forecast 2024 explores a broad range of litigation themes, including:

  • Navigating sanctions: With the ever-changing geopolitical landscape, the impact of sanctions is becoming increasingly relevant for New Zealand businesses operating here and overseas.
  • Shifting workplace landscape: Changing employment dynamics, workplace safety concerns, and the evolving regulatory environment are creating new litigation challenges for businesses. 
  • Tikanga Māori in the Courts: The ongoing recognition of tikanga Māori as a source of law within New Zealand’s legal system brings both new opportunities and additional complexities. 
  • Climate change and greenwashing: As climate change concerns intensify, continued growth in litigation involving environmental protection, carbon neutrality claims, and greenwashing accusations are expected.
  • Cybersecurity and generative AI: The ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape and the emergence of Generative AI present unique challenges for businesses and their directors. 
  • Whakaari | White Island tragedy: Following the devastating eruption in 2019, the Whakaari | White Island proceedings continue to raise complex legal questions. 

For more detail on New Zealand’s litigation landscape, read MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ Litigation Forecast 2024.