Australian Asbestos Legal Issues

Recently numerous legal issues concerning asbestos claims for sufferers of related illnesses have surfaced in Australia. Some have been resolved, but the future of others seems less certain. For most victims of mesothelioma, compensation cannot come quickly enough. However, these matters seem to be especially complicated in Australia.

Important Legislation

According to a the Wrongs Act – a law made 50 years ago – sufferers are entitled to complete compensation for lost earnings, but limits were capped for individuals who were exposed to asbestos in conditions not related to work. In 2006, the law was amended to include individuals exposed to asbestos in the environment or by second-hand exposure. Previously, victims whose illnesses resulted from do-it-yourself projects did not receive sufficient compensation for medical costs or the financial security of their families. In 2008, the Fatal Accidents Act Amendment returned compensation that had been previously reduced by 33% after a Court of Appeals ruled that compensation to victims would be adjusted to consider pay-outs to relatives. However, families who did not qualify before the change were not compensated and are now requesting their fair share.

James Hardie Industries

James Hardie Industries is one of Australia’s leading developers and manufacturers of building supplies. The company has been the recipient of thousands of claims based on its flagrant use of asbestos. In 2001, the manufacturer established the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation to compensate victims of asbestos-related illnesses that resulted from its products. However, it later became apparent that the foundation was drastically underfunded. Estimates suggest that around 12,000 claims will have been made against James Hardie Industries by 2012. Existing evidence indicates that Hardie was aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure as early as the 1930s and failed to take any actions to protect their employees. As a result, all of these workers feel they are entitled to compensation. In 2007, $184.3 million was set aside in the hopes that it would pay for the needs of these asbestos victims. At present, however, the upsetting saga of the executives and board members of James Hardie Industries continues. References: Australian Council of Trade Unions Australian Legal Information Institute – Fatal Accidents Amendment Bill 2008 Australian Legal Information Institute – Wrongs Act 1958