The Guardian • Issue #2105

Huge win for mesothelioma victims against asbestos giant

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2105
engineered stone

In a landmark case for victims of asbestos related diseases, a Queensland jury has ordered Amaca Pty Limited (formerly known as James Hardie) to pay a total of $1.21 million and a sum of $800,000 for general damages and loss of life expectancy to Kim Martin, a 77-year-old suffering from mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos products manufactured by James Hardie & Coy Pty Limited.

The grandfather of three was diagnosed with asbestos-related pleural disease in 2013 and with deadly mesothelioma in 2021. Despite his declining health, Kim was determined to bring his fight directly to the asbestos manufacturing giant.

Martin’s case marks the first pain and suffering award for a mesothelioma victim in Queensland and the highest pain and suffering award for a mesothelioma victim in Australia.

Slater and Gordon Legal Counsel in Dust Diseases, Sean Sweeney, said the news is a huge win for all Australians who have been exposed to the deadly fibres which continue to impact workers and home renovators decades later.

“This is a watershed moment for victims of mesothelioma, marking the first occasion that a Queensland Court has assessed damages for a plaintiff suffering from asbestos-related disease,” Sweeney said.

Martin handled James Hardie products and attended their factories in Western Australia and Queensland regularly between 1967 and 1975 Additionally, he cut and installed James Hardie products during private renovations in Western Australia in 1978 and 1979.

More than 50 years later, he can still recall working with James Hardie products in factories and warehouses – often with his bare hands.

“I didn’t see any warning labels about asbestos or dust released from the asbestos cement sheets I carried and worked with. There were no signs at the James Hardie factories about the dangers of what we were handling,” Martin said.

Slater and Gordon has called the decision an important step towards holding asbestos manufacturers accountable for their actions.

Sweeney said “James Hardie knew for decades that there was no safe level of exposure to asbestos, but they prioritised their profits over the health of the public, creating a horrible legacy of asbestos-related disease and death.

“We commend the members of the jury for providing justice for Mr Martin and his family. However, there are no winners in a case like this when a wonderful life has been cruelly cut short by an entirely avoidable disease.

“Mr Martin has demonstrated extraordinary courage in his fight against James Hardie & Coy Pty Limited obtaining the first award for damages for mesothelioma in Queensland. However, what is important to Kim and his family is the recognition that James Hardie failed him, and so many others, and has been held accountable for their actions”

Slater and Gordon Lawyers

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