A Perth man has been awarded more than $2 million in the Supreme Court for mesothelioma contracted after childhood visits to an asbestos-contaminated miniature railway.
Simon Lowes, 42, was four years old when his parents took him to the children’s railway in the grounds of Castledare Boys Home, a Christian Brothers orphanage in the Perth suburb of Wilson.
Diagnosed with the deadly cancer in 2009, Mr Lowes has fought a two-year battle for compensation with James Hardie, which dumped asbestos tailings at the site between 1968 and 1970 despite knowing the dangers.
In a 350-page judgment, Justice Michael Corboy found James Hardie breached its duty of care. He ordered that the company pay damages of $2,068,396.93 to Mr Lowes. The judgment takes into account Mr Lowes relatively young age at diagnosis, and lost earnings.
The payout is the highest in a Western Australian asbestos ruling.
Mr Lowes’s lawyer Michael Magazanik of Slater & Gordon said dumping deadly fibres on a children’s playground revealed the worst type of corporate behavior.
The court heard that by 1968, James Hardie had abundant evidence of the link between asbestos and serious respiratory disease. In 1971, at least a year before the Lowes family first visited Castledare, a James Hardie safety officer warned that dumping asbestos tailings there was “unwise” and risked provoking “a sensational news story, as the orphanage children visit this site each weekend”.
After taking into account evidence from experts including Professor Bill Musk, Justice Corboy agreed that: “There is a direct relationship between exposure to asbestos and the risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma.”
James Hardie is expected to appeal.
The full judgment can be read at http://decisions.justice.wa.gov.au/supreme/supdcsn.nsf
By Catherine Madden