A building products company in New South Wales has agreed to settle an asbestos compensation case just minutes before the plaintiff, who is seriously ill with mesothelioma, was due to take the stand.
In a case overseen by the NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal, the company settled the claim through its Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund.
The claim was brought forward by a third-wave victim who believed the company’s product, “fibro,” was responsible for his recent diagnosis of mesothelioma. Third-wave represents those individuals unwittingly exposed to asbestos while performing do-it-yourself home renovations.
On April 9, the plaintiff, who contracted mesothelioma last year, told ABC Australia that while he was aware of the dangers of asbestos when he first came to Australia, he was unaware that fibro contained the deadly fibre.
“I didn’t come to Australia until 1987, and to be honest I’d never heard of fibro until I came to Australia, you know, and I certainly didn’t know that fibro contained asbestos, and I think a lot of people are like that even today,” he explained.
This landmark case has opened the door for other third-wave victims to come forward, as it is the first time a NSW fund has agreed to compensate an individual who did not purchase the company’s products.
The result of this case means other victims who were exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis will also be able to file for compensation in NSW.
This case also saw the former managing director (MD) of the building products company give evidence from the witness box for the first time. The former MD ran the company for approximately a decade from the late 1970s. He told the tribunal that at the time, he believed the health dangers of asbestos were just “media beat up” and exaggerated.
Because of this, the former MD admitted his company could have stopped making asbestos products a decade earlier than it did, preventing danger to thousands of lives.
As this evidence came to light, the company and fund made the decision to offer a confidential settlement to the plaintiff. The case was then dropped.
Asbestos diseases typically only present 20 to 40 years after exposure, which means many more victims could soon come forward to claim their portion of the offered compensation.
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