Record $3m asbestos compensation award

15 JUN 2020


An Adelaide man who developed an aggressive and incurable cancer as a result of his exposure to James Hardie building products during home renovations, has been awarded a record $3,077,187 compensation payment.

42-year-old Mathew Werfel was diagnosed with a rare form of the aggressive and terminal cancer mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos during home renovations and when working for a fencing contractor as a teenager. Judge Leonie Farrell imposed significant exemplary damages as punishment for James Hardie’s failure to properly warn the public about the risk posed by its asbestos products, saying it did so “purely for commercial gain”. Her Honour also highlighted that the lack of community education and awareness was an ongoing issue, with James Hardie failing to adequately warn the general public about the ongoing dangers posed by their deadly products which remain in thousands of homes.

The Asbestos Victims Association of South Australia said the South Australian Employment Tribunal decision was significant not only for the record size of the compensation, but because of its strong message about the need for improved public awareness of the risks of asbestos products still found in many homes and workplaces.

“James Hardie should read this judgment very closely and finally do what they should have done decades ago by carrying out a serious, large-scale public education campaign that tells the public what the risks are, how to identify them, and what can be done to have the asbestos safely removed” said AVA spokeswoman Lesley Shears.

Source: Media Release Asbestos Victims Association of South Australia.

This article first appeared in the CCH Australian Tort, Personal Injury, Health and Medical Law Tracker and is reproduced in full with permission from CCH, a division of Wolters Kluwer Australia:

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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