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Ex-fencer awarded $3m asbestos payout

A South Australian court has awarded a record $3m asbestos payout in precedent-setting victory for fencing contractors.

An Adelaide man has been awarded a record compensation payout of $3,077,187 after being diagnosed with a rare form of mesothelioma – an aggressive and incurable cancer.

The South Australian Employment Tribunal judgment has significant implications for ‘third wave’ asbestos victims – those exposed to in-situ asbestos products in homes, workplaces, and the community – finding that the manufacturer had failed to properly warn the public about the ongoing risks posed by their asbestos cement products.

The ex-fencer who lives in Adelaide’s northern suburbs with his wife and three daughters, aged 10, 7 and 6, was diagnosed with the terminal cancer after discovering a lump in his groin in 2017. Since then he has undergone multiple major surgeries, along with aggressive rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

He was first exposed to asbestos as a teenager, while working for a fencing contractor after leaving school.

He was subsequently exposed during home renovations, including when he sanded and painted the walls of his first home in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, which he didn’t realise were constructed from asbestos cement sheets.

In addition to awarding compensation for pain and suffering, future economic loss, medical expenses, and loss of life expectancy, the Judge imposed exemplary damages on the company, saying the court needed to issue a deterrent for corporate actions that put commercial gain ahead of people’s lives.

The judge highlighted the manufacturer’s failure to properly warn the public of the risks still posed by its products, saying the company did so purely for commercial gain.

The ex-fencer said the manufacturer should be running a massive public awareness campaign that lets people know just how much of these asbestos products are still out there, what to look out for, and how to stay safe around the home.

This article was first published in The Fence magazine.

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