The NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal has agreed that a man who developed mesothelioma probably did so after asbestos exposure in the workplace.
Sadly, the man died shortly after diagnosis in June 2014, with figures from the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance claiming that just 9 per cent of sufferers are still alive five years after they find out they have the illness.
Less than one-third of people survive beyond a year after diagnosis, making it a cancer with an extremely poor prognosis. The disease is linked to asbestos exposure, and symptoms may not develop for many decades after the individual first came into contact with the hazardous material.
In this particular case, the man was alleged to have worked with asbestos at several different jobs during his career, ranging from minor peripheral exposure to regular handling of the substance.
The plaintiff had already successfully claimed damages, but the case went before the courts to decide whether the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund was due a contribution from the man's former employer.
Compensation is available for people in NSW who are exposed to asbestos via their employment. The Dust Diseases Tribunal rules on asbestos-related claims and attempts to expedite the process to ensure victims have the best chance of benefiting directly from any damages they receive.
While in this instance the plaintiff had died, the tribunal still had to decide whether it was likely the man was exposed to asbestos while working at the Munmorah Power Station for one year until around August 1966.
If proven, the judge would also have to rule on the likelihood that this exposure led to his mesothelioma.
The man's job was to assemble and install draught and forced-draught fans in the power station, which required him to feed large amounts of asbestos tape into the fan casing.
According to court documents, handling the tape caused asbestos dust to cover the plaintiff's hands and drift into the air around him. Meanwhile, the man worked nearby a team of laggers who would frequently apply wet asbestos to the ends of pipes before putting a metal cap over the lagging.
"[The plaintiff] described his exposure at the power station as the heaviest asbestos exposure that he encountered in the course of his work. [He] could see asbestos dust in the air around him when he worked at the power station," said Judge Andrew Scotting.
The judge claimed he was satisfied that the man had been exposed to asbestos and the hazardous material was responsible for him developing mesothelioma. The Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund can now file a cross-claim for damages from the plaintiff's former company.
Would you like to know more about mesothelioma and other asbestos-related claims? Please contact our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.