A claim in South Australia against the asbestos company James Hardie resulted in a man receiving compensation of $1.062 million after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma last October.
The retiree was exposed in the 1970s to asbestos cement sheets used to build a fence beside his suburban home.
The decision is a significant one given that the award included an amount for exemplary damages – the first payable by the asbestos producer in Australia.
The Court held the James Hardie company was driven by a ‘thirst for profit’ when it continued to sell the chemical product after it had become aware of its lethal effects.
The company was penalised for its failure to warn users of the dangers and potentially fatal consequences of using asbestos products. Judge Gilchrist stated that at the time it was “fully informed about the dangers of asbestos” but the company “made a conscious choice not to alert the public of that fact. This gives rise to the irresistible inference that it put profit ahead of public safety.”
Having received compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses and future care, the asbestos victim was also awarded $500,000 in compensation for pension entitlements he would have received had the span of his life not been shortened by the disease.
The victim’s compensation lawyer described the decision as setting a “major precedent”.
The success of the pensioner’s compensation claim for future economic loss may be of benefit to other asbestos victims who are diagnosed following retirement.
Read the full decision here.
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