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A mother’s courage gets law changed

Melissa Haylock contracted mesothelioma at the age of 41 years. Her only exposure to asbestos was as a small child when, in 1964, her father carried out renovations on their home in Adelaide. Melissa’s cot was near her father as he worked; handling, cutting, rasping and drilling asbestos cement fibro sheets. Melissa’s father picked her up to cuddle and play with her while he was covered in asbestos dust. Melissa made a claim against James Hardie, the manufacturer of the asbestos cement sheets her father used. (At the time Melissa contracted mesothelioma, she had eight year old triplets).


Melissa claimed, amongst other damages, for the cost of replacing the care that, but for her condition of mesothelioma, she would have provided to her children. At the time her claim was commenced, the law in South Australia did not permit such damages to be awarded.


The Asbestos Victims Association in South Australia made submissions to the Government on behalf of Melissa, and lobbied to have the law changed to allow persons such as Melissa to claim for the cost of replacing their services for the benefit of others.


After much lobbying and media attention, the law was amended. Turner Freeman was able to settle Melissa’s claim for a substantial figure that included damages for the cost of replacing her services as a mother, the first such case in South Australia. Melissa’s courageous battle and public plea has resulted in a new system for asbestos claims in South Australia that will benefit all those who come after her.

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