A recent decision by the South Australian Supreme Court of Appeal is good news for Plaintiffs seeking compensation for asbestos-related diseases.
The appeal relates to a decision of the District Court of South Australia which ordered Amaca, (formerly James Hardie) pay for the Plaintiff's lost pension entitlements.
The claim was brought against Amaca by Mr Latz who suffered mesothelioma from exposure to James Hardie products many years earlier when building a fence at his home in Adelaide.
At the time of the claim, Mr Latz received the Aged Pension and a government pension due to his many years as a State Government employee. Mr Latz claimed damages from Amaca which included the loss of his pension entitlements as his life expectancy was dramatically reduced as a result of the mesothelioma.
In addition to awarding Mr Latz compensation for economic loss related to the pensions, the Judge also awarded him $30,000 in exemplary damages. Exemplary damages are damages which are intended to punish a party and are only awarded in exceptional circumstances.
Unsatisfied with this decision, Amaca appealed to the Court of Appeal. However, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Trial Judge and the Plaintiff was again awarded damages for his lost future pension entitlements.
The decision regarding the pension entitlements was not unanimous, however, all three judges agreed that the award of $30,000 for exemplary damages was manifestly inadequate . Instead, the judges awarded Mr Latz $250,000 in exemplary damages as the former James Hardie was highly aware of the dangers asbestos posed at the time Mr Latz was exposed to their products.
This decision is likely to make its way to the High Court as it sets a precedent for former asbestos producers like Amaca. For now, however, the decision is a positive one for Plaintiffs.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, it's important to get the right advice. To book your free appointment, call our Adviceline on (03) 9321 9988.