When we think of asbestos related diseases, it is often mesothelioma, the “asbestos cancer” that comes to mind.
However, there are many other conditions which can significantly affect someone’s respiratory health and life expectancy.
Just as clients with mesothelioma can often access compensation to help relieve the financial pressures associated with a terminal illness, so too can clients with other asbestos related conditions like asbestosis.
The significance, burden and impact of a disease like asbestosis was recognised on 19 September 2022 by the Dust Diseases Tribunal in the case of Headon v Amaca (formerly James Hardie).
Mr Headon handled products made by James Hardie when working as a bricklayer and labourer and was, in his later years, diagnosed with asbestosis – a progressive condition resulting in scarring of the lungs.
Mr Headon sought compensation for his pain and suffering, past and future care and services and past and future out of pocket expenses. He was 82 years of age at the time of his trial.
Before his illness, Mr Headon loved walking, travelling, travel and spending time with his family. Whilst Mr Headon also had Parkinson’s disease, it was mild and stable and unlikely to progress. As a result of his asbestosis, Mr Headon became breathless when talking, showering, dressing and bending. His inability to get enough air in his lungs can make him anxious and panicky.
The Court recognised the significant impact of the condition on Mr Headon and awarded him $350,000.00 for his pain and suffering damages as well as over $560,000.00 for future commercial care and services damages.
In total, Mr Headon received over $1.1m in compensation.
The significance of this decision is consistent with the devastating impact that a condition of asbestosis can have on an individual who can often live with severe respiratory symptoms for years.