LawTalk Blog

Asbestos and compensation amounts – a brief case study

Workcover asbestos injuries

In a claim for damages for personal injury the amount that a sufferer can receive is dependent on the type of injury that they have.  But what if the doctors are undecided about exactly what it is that a person is suffering from? 

In the recent case of Geyer -v- RESI Corporation the issue before the Court was whether the injured party was suffering mesothelioma.  Mr Geyer was employed between 1957 and 1988 by the Electricity Trust of South Australia as a boiler maker/welder, leading hand boiler maker, assistant foreman and mechanical foreman at Playford Power Station.

He asserted that during the course of his employment he was exposed to asbestos dust and fibre whilst installing, mixing, removing and generally handling insulation materials containing asbestos and whilst working in and about areas contaminated by asbestos dust and fibre.  He also asserts that he was required to work in the vicinity of others installing, removing and generally working with insulation materials containing asbestos. 

As a consequence of that he became ill and lodged a claim for compensation.  Having been born in 1928 and therefore being of advanced age, Mr Geyer also suffered from a myriad of other health problems which were unrelated to the asbestos exposure. 

Despite the medical experts being highly credentialed and very experienced in their fields, there was a significant difference in opinions.  Whilst his doctor agreed that he suffered a right lung tumour, it was stated that the type had not been established and it was not typical both on imaging and histopathological grounds.

Mr Geyer was said to have a number of other medical conditions which contributed to his overall lack of wellbeing, his mobility and breathing difficulties.  There was uncertainty in the case.

It was decided however, that given Mr Geyer had extensive exposure to asbestos over a long period and asbestos being a substance readily associated with the contraction of mesothelioma and taking into account expert evidence suggesting with varying degrees of certainty, a belief that this is the medical condition from which Mr Geyer suffered.

The Judge concluded that it was more probable than not that he now suffers from mesothelioma and awarded $175,000.00 in general damages, $5,000.00 for loss of life expectancy, $10,474.00 for past medical expenses, $65,000.00 for future medical expenses, $50,000.00 for gratuitous services, $20,000.00 for exemplary damages and $2,000.00 for interest totalling $327,474.00.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos and is exhibiting symptoms associated with asbestos exposure, it's important firstly to seek medical assistance but also to seek legal advice about the potential for compensation.  It is noteworthy that asbestos exposure is not restricted to work places.  Amongst other scenarios, it is prevalent in home renovations.

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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