In May 2017, the District Court of South Australia handed down a decision in the matter of Latz –v- Amaca Pty Limited (formerly James Hardie Pty Limited). In that decision, Mr Latz was awarded $1,062,000. This included a claim for loss of pension entitlements and an award of $30,000 for exemplary damages, representing the first award of exemplary damages (which are damages aimed at punishing a defendant) against James Hardie.
Future loss of pension disputed
Amaca Pty Limited (formerly James Hardie Pty Limited) appealed the decision on the basis that the future loss of pension entitlements should not have been compensated, and that even if it was, the award should have been reduced to account for a future benefit to Mr Latz’s partner.
On 30 October 2017 the Supreme Court of South Australia handed down its decision on the appeal.
Amaca failed in its appeal of the District Court’s decision to award compensation for the loss of pension. This is a significant finding for all future claimants with asbestos related diseases. However, Amaca was successful in its appeal of the District Court’s decision not to reduce the award for the pension on account of a future benefit to Mr Latz’s partner, which had the effect of reducing the total award for loss of pension.
Increase the award for exemplary damages
Additionally and significantly, the Supreme Court increased the award for exemplary damages against James Hardie from $30,000 to $250,000. The Supreme Court found that James Hardie’s conduct in the 1970s amounted to ‘reckless indifference’ and that the original award of $30,000 was ‘manifestly inadequate’ in the circumstances.
Continued to sell asbestos products despite the risks
Although the effect of the judgment ultimately resulted in a reduction in the damages awarded to Mr Latz, the significant increase in the amount awarded for exemplary damages represents a long overdue acknowledgement of James Hardie’s reprehensible conduct in the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s in continuing to sell its asbestos cement products despite its knowledge of the risks posed to its workers, customers and the wider Australian community.
Turner Freeman Asbestos Compensation Experts
Turner Freeman acted for Mr Latz in the appeal in the Supreme Court. For further information on the judgment, do not hesitate to contact Turner Freeman Partner, Annie Hoffman on 8213 1000.