A supreme court case in Western Australia has highlighted how the detrimental effects of asbestos can remain hidden for many years after exposure.
Simon Lowes' parents used to take him to the Castledare Miniature Railway at the orphanage in Wilson – where he and a number of other children would spend hours riding the featured vehicles and playing in and around mounds of a white, powdery material that scattered the landscape.
It was later determined the piles were asbestos dumped there by James Hardie & Co – with of the carcinogenic substance left in heaps before being used as road base and the foundations of the rail tracks.
Lowes was taken to the Castledare facility a number of times in his childhood – during court his mother recounted that he was "a very energetic little boy, never wanting to sit still for more than a moment".
She said: "The trips to the railways were great because he could take a train ride which he loved and then play in the surrounds which was very interesting and fun for a boy of his age."
While on these trips, the claimant would frequently run around the area, clambering over the mounds of asbestos and playing with other children in the fine powder.
"I remember that there was even white waste spread around in the area where we would wait to get on the train," said Ms Lowes.
James Hardier & Co admitted that material was asbestos cement waste supplied to the Castled are miniature railway at the request of the Catholic Church between 1971 and early 1973 – despite a safety officer noting that the dumping practice was "unwise".
The 42-year-old father of two first experienced symptoms back in 2006 – waking with a bloated, painful abdomen that had him stay in hospital for ten days while medical professionals ran tests.
After that, a series of examinations determined that Lowes had developed an aggressive form of mesothelioma – a cancer that the court has since determined was "materially contributed to" by his repeated exposure to asbestos when he was four years old.
In his findings, justice Michael Corboy noted that the facts of the case were both numerous complex but found that the defendant – James Hardie & Co – was liable and set the damages to be awarded at over $2 million dollars.
Launching this kind of case can seem like a daunting prospect, but an experienced compensation lawyer will be able to provide victims with an up-front consultation to further explore their legal options.
A no win no fee law firm can give asbestos sufferers access to the resources they need to launch a successful claim.