Lolke Weegenaar is chairman of the organisation ‘Groningen Earthquake Depreciation’, established by De Haan Lawyers & Solicitors. "It is about our rights, our money and our emotions!"
Weegenaar knows that NAM earthquakes can cause unprecedented damage to a home, hearth and psychological wellbeing. His farm estate ‘Oudebosch’ in Onderdendam which he had renovated himself, endured heavy blows. "On 16 August 2012, I was reading in bed when suddenly the farm’s trusses started shaking violently. The old beams creaked and the sound of ripping marble was downright frightening.”
Lolke jumped out of bed, took his son out of his room, ran outside and found out later that this summer evening was affected by a big earthquake in Huizinge, just a few kilometres from Weegenaar’s estate. The quake had a magnitude of 3.6 and appeared to be the most violent of all.
After this quake, Weegenaar ended up with one damage report after another. Another two quakes followed in Zandemeer on 7 and 8 February 2013. At Weegenaar’s farm as well as on its sister farm ‘Grote Haver’, significant damage was found again. Weegenaar was tired. "Suddenly I realised that everything I had fought for over the years, had wilful, permanent damage done to it."
The indirect damage, such as the depreciation of Weegenaar’s real estate was obvious when, after the sudden death of his wife, buyers showed up with interest in his estate. "Their first question was whether I lived in the ‘earthquake zone’. The second question was if the earthquakes had caused any damage. I was quickly finished talking.” Weegenaar felt more memories and emotions emerge. "I have built this property up with my wife. When the value of our precious possession subsequently proved to evaporate due to the earthquakes, I became angry. I thought it was time for action."
"It is our right, our money and especially our emotions."
Class action summary proceedings
Weegenaar called Hans Silvius from De Haan Lawyers & Solicitors. "Hans quickly understands what you need and he is straight to the point, so I like him. I had already brought several work related files to De Haan in the past and because of that, I have good experiences with the office. I told Hans that I felt it was time for class action summary proceedings in order to claim back the depreciation for many property owners. It seems a little American, but in this bizarre and unfair reality it’s a strong way of fighting your corner."
It so happened to be that De Haan Lawyers & Solicitors were also at the point of launching the WAG Foundation. "I was literally the first participant and I was immediately appointed as chairman." His participation is obvious. ”The cost aspect is interesting. I believe that rates for the success fee are moderate and I believe in this type of class action summary proceedings. As chairman I can use my experience and abilities to help other victims. I also feel obliged to defend the cultural heritage of my home environment. In 2002 I deliberately returned to my homeland, after having lived in America and Switzerland for twenty-three years. I enjoy the peace, the space and the people. Unfortunately, now the bounty from the soil turns against the residents.”
The chairman praises the cooperation with the specialists from De Haan. "What Pieter Huitema has put together, works very well. Moreover, he is available day and night, easy to reach and ambitious.” Weegenaar explicitly names the power of the collective. "The office can operate quickly due to its volume, it can link specialisations and it can make strong public statements. Additionally, a good dose of entrepreneurship is added, which often lacks in other offices.’’
During his first year as chairman, steps have been taken, but Weegenaar wants to move on. "The compensation offered is a sham! However, the collected evidence is favourable to our legal process, so we have served the summons confidently at NAM on 24 January 2014.” Therefore, Weegenaar kept himself occupied intensively with data collection, conducting numerous interviews and making the mission known. Now it's wait and see. "I can not influence the judiciary, but after the Letter of Rights, I hope to sit at the negotiating table, because that’s where my negotiating power comes in handy. That’s something I look forward to!"