In response to pressure from the Asbestos Diseases
Society Inc. (ADSA) the West Australian Government
made changes to the Limitations Act enabling claims
to be brought forward. Further lobbying by the ADSA
resulted in the release of Mines Department and Health
Department records relating to the Wittenoom Blue Asbestos
Mining and James Hardie Factories, which had been thought
long destroyed. These records told a completely different
story to that which had emerged in earlier unsuccessful
trials and the ADSA began pressing for another test
The law firm Slater & Gordon (Now National) first became involved in asbestos
litigation in the 1985 Victorian action of Pilmer V. Mcpherson Ltd. Mr Pilmer
suffered from malignant mesothelioma as a consequence of his asbestos exposure
at work. His case was the first successful claim in negligence in relation to
an asbestos disease and he received damages of $270,000. It was the first time
in Australia that any worker had received common law damages for asbestos-related
disease and it demonstrated that such cases could be won, even though the exposure
which caused the disease had occurred 30-40 years earlier.
In 1985 a strategic alliance between the ADSA and Slater & Gordon to combined
resources in order to bring test cases before the courts in Western Australia.
This pioneering work resulted in a number of firsts and over the years has redefined
the compensation benefits paid to victims of asbestos exposure and their families.
After winning the first negligence claim for an employee suffering from an asbestos-related
disease, ADSA and Slater & Gordon went on to win:
- The first negligence claim for exposure to Wittenoom
- The first award of damages against an employer
as punishment rather than compensation
- The first group settlement of over 300 asbestos
- The first verdict against an occupier of premises
where asbestos related cancer developed
- The first damages award for asbestos-caused mesothelioma
- The first damages award for a waterside worker
for asbestos-related illness
- The first use of video-taped evidence by a critically
ill claimant at hospital
In 1987/88 the ADSA with the backing from the Maritime
Workers Union (MUA) procured the first Statutory
Workers Compensation for the water side works suffering
from Asbestos related diseases in Australia
In the late 1990's Slater & Gordon had a breakthrough
when compensation was won for waterside workers who
had been exposed to asbestos for many years. Their
claims had previously been denied because of the difficulty
in proving who had employed them. A landmark case was
also won when a cigarette smoker suffering an asbestos
related disease was granted compensation. The defence
had argued he was not entitled to any compensation
because smoking had worsened his condition. Slater & Gordon
also pioneered the speedy trial process for critically
ill claimants, helping many to achieve final peace
Working with the ADSA, Slater & Gordon have developed
the largest and most successful asbestos practice in
Australia. As a result of their joint endeavours, the
categories of eligible claimants has broadened and
legal action is now much less stressful and uncertain.
Who can claim compensation?
If you have been exposed to asbestos and have been
diagnosed with asbestosis, cancer, mesothelioma, pleural
plaques or another asbestos related condition, you
may be entitled to claim compensation. There are various
legal avenues available to sufferers in asbestos cases.
Generally, compensation claims are made through the
courts under the common law, when, among other things,
exposure to asbestos has resulted from the negligence
of another party.
A negligence claim requires a finding that the illness
was caused by another's failure to take reasonable
care. Scientific evidence of the health dangers of
asbestos has been available since the 1930's, and largely
ignored by employers, manufacturers and governments.
They put profit and convenience ahead of health and
safety. This makes those responsible negligent. Largely
as a result of the joint endeavours of the ADSA and
Slater & Gordon, you are entitled to make a claim
- You have since left that employment
- Exposure occurred many years ago
- You have worked for many employers
- You were self-employed or a contractor
- Your employer went out of business years ago
- You were a heavy smoker
- Your exposure occurred interstate or overseas.
What compensation can be recovered?
Under the common law, damages can be claimed for:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of income and income earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
Damages are generally limited to compensation for
losses actually suffered. However, in some cases punitive
damages are awarded. Punitive damages are an additional
amount intended to punish the wrongdoer and are awarded
over and above compensation.
The spouses and dependent children of someone who has
died from an asbestos-related illness may also be entitled
to claim compensation for loss of financial support,
as well as for loss of domestic services. Dependants
cannot claim for pain and suffering.
Who can help?
We have a register of the most experienced lawyers
to provide advice if so required.
Contact us on 1800 646 690 or 08 93444 077 or complete the online Contact
Industrial and Environmental Hygiene.
Australian Information to date.
Please note it has been:
- Prohibited to mine any form of asbestos in Australia
since mid eighties
- Prohibited to import any form of asbestos including Chrysotile – White
from Jan 1 2004
- Prohibited to be used in construction since 1986
- Complete ban on importation will take effect no
later than December 2003 (applications for exemption
are currently being received)
- Australia still imports some asbestos required
for essential purposes when no suitable substitute
is available. However all imports are subject to
Federal Ministerial approval.
New National harmonised Asbestos regulations
will be available within
12 months keep checking
for the latest information.
Please phone 1800
646 690 if you have specific queries in this regard.
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