Reid v Seltsam Pty Ltd [2021] VSC 653

An award of $580,000.00 for general damages, also known as damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenities, has been granted to a sufferer of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma by Justice Forbes in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

While a jury in a previous matter has awarded a higher sum, this is the highest amount for general damages ever awarded in Australia by a judge sitting alone.

Background

The plaintiff was a 69-year-old mother and grandmother who was exposed to asbestos as a child due to the fact that her family home was located only 2 streets away from the Wunderlich asbestos cement sheet factory.

Prior to the plaintiff’s diagnosis she babysat her grandson for 3 days per week to enable her son and his partner to attend work. They had just had a second child and it was anticipated the same arrangement would continue for this child too. The evidence outlined that the plaintiff’s son and his partner were expecting to be dependent on such babysitting until their first child reached the end of his primary school.

Issues at Trial

During the second day of the trial, the defendant admitted liability and as such the remaining question for the Court was the assessment of damages.

It should also be noted Her Honour made a significant award for lost services to her grandchildren calculated at $247,121.00. That is a very significant award for lost services but even more notable was the award for general damages, or damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenities

General Damages

Prior to this matter, there have been a number of awards for general damages for mesothelioma in Victoria, mostly by a single judge sitting alone, but in 3 cases, by juries.

The last jury verdict in Victoria was the King decision where a jury awarded $730,000.00 for general damages in a mesothelioma case. That verdict was 10 years old at the time of this matter being determined by Justice Forbes.

The defendant submitted that a figure of $250,000.00 was an appropriate sum for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.  The plaintiff’s legal team submitted that $600,000.00 would be a fair and reasonable award.

Justice Forbes awarded the Plaintiff $580,000.00 for general damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

This verdict represents the highest single Judge verdict for general damages in Australia for mesothelioma.

Summary

This welcome decision marks a progressive shift towards higher single Judge awards for general damages in Australia for mesothelioma.

Sean Ryan Lawyer Gold Coast

This blog was written by Sean Ryan, Director

Phone: 07 5593 2122 or Toll Free 1800 316 716

Email: sean@vbrlaw.com.au