Sig­nif­i­cant rul­ing for as­bestos claims

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - All copy pro­vided by Turner Free­man lawyers; turn­er­free­

AS­BESTOS vic­tims have re- ceived a boost af­ter the High Court re­jected an at­tempt by BHP Bil­li­ton to ap­peal a prece­dent-set­ting com­pen­sa­tion de­ci­sion — end­ing a 3½-year le­gal bat­tle.

Willem van Soest took le­gal ac­tion against BHP in 2012 af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with mesothe­lioma, a deadly lung can­cer caused by as­bestos.

He ar­gued that it was caused by ex­po­sure that oc­curred in 1962, when he spent 11 weeks work­ing as a pain­ter and docker at the BHP ship­yard in Whyalla.

His case was sig­nif­i­cant given the short time frame of his em­ploy­ment and the fact that he had not been work­ing di­rectly with as­bestos prod­ucts.

BHP ar­gued that the com­pany didn’t know that sim­ply work­ing close to other em­ploy­ees as they in­stalled as-

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Tune in to the Chris Smith Af­ter­noon Show on 2GB on Tues­days from 1.30pm where a spe­cial­ist lawyer will be avail­able to take your calls. be­stos in­su­la­tion around pipes and boil­ers put him at risk of de­vel­op­ing an as­bestos-re­lated dis­ease such as mesothe­lioma.

The com­pany also claimed that his ex­po­sure was within the bounds of what was con­sid­ered safe in 1962, jus­ti­fy­ing their de­ci­sion not to pro­vide res­pi­ra­tors or other safety equip­ment.

The High Court last month re­jected those ar­gu­ments, up­hold­ing a rul­ing of the Full Court of the South Aus­tralian Supreme Court which had awarded Mr van Soest $358,151.30 in dam­ages.

Un­for­tu­nately, Mr van Soest died of his mesothe­lioma dur­ing the le­gal bat­tle, aged 74, but his widow and son con­tin­ued the case be- cause of the sig­nif­i­cance to other as­bestos vic­tims.

The High Court’s rul­ing may have sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tions for thou­sands of Aus­tralian work­ers ex­posed to as­bestos dur­ing their em­ploy­ment with ma­jor in­dus­trial users of the prod­uct, prior to the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment ban­ning its use in the 1980s.

In par­tic­u­lar, the de­ci­sion con­firms that Aus­tralian courts will hold a busi­ness re­spon­si­ble for fail­ing to take rea­son­able steps to pro­tect em­ploy­ees from a safety risk such as as­bestos, even if those work­ers are ex­posed only in­di­rectly, in small quan­ti­ties, or for short time frames.

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