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.’’

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