Dying man waiting for asbestos compo ruling
Lawyers for an Adelaide man who last year was awarded the largest ever asbestos compensation payout in South Australia are hoping for a hasty judgment following an appeal to the High Court yesterday.
The court must decide whether 70-year-old Anthony Latz, who was too ill to attend the hearing, should be awarded income from superannuation and the age pension he would have received if he were not destined to die prematurely because of exposure to asbestos while using a James Hardie product in the mid-1970s.
Amaca Pty Ltd, formerly James Hardie, appealed against last year’s Supreme Court decision to award Mr Latz the pensions he otherwise would have received for the rest of his life.
Mr Latz is also challenging a Supreme Court decision to deduct from the awarded damages the benefit his partner will receive upon his death.
The District Court awarded Mr Latz $1.06 million compensation in May last year, an amount the Supreme Court later reduced by almost $200,000.
Annie Hoffman from Turner Freeman Lawyers told The Aus- tralian after yesterday’s High Court hearing that Mr Latz was “very unwell” and everything was being done “to get an outcome in his lifetime”.
“The court is aware of his current condition … we don’t know how long it (a judgment) will be, but we’re hoping it will be fairly quick,” she said.
The outcome of the case is not only significant for Mr Latz and other asbestos victims, but it could substantially affect how compensation is calculated for anyone whose life is shortened due to the negligence of others.
Mr Latz, a retired surveyor and public servant who now lives in the Adelaide suburb of Stonyfell, developed mesothelioma after being exposed to a James Hardie product in the mid-1970s while constructing a fence.
The District Court said James Hardie failed to give Mr Latz any warnings or advice and “its failure to do so was motivated by its thirst for profit, which it valued ahead of his safety”.
“James Hardie was fully informed about the dangers of asbestos. It knew it could kill end users,” said judge Brian Gilchrist, awarding the compensation.
“It failed to warn Mr Latz of the potential harm he might suffer by using its product.’’