Turner Freeman client, Allan Geyer was employed by the Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA, now Resi Corporation) between 14 July 1957 and 14 September 1988. He was employed as a boilermaker/welder obtaining a number of promotions before becoming mechanical foreman at the ETSA Playford Power Stations in Port Augusta, South Australia. During this employment Mr Geyer suffered exposure to asbestos as a result of asbestos insulation materials being removed and applied around boilers, and further as a result of asbestos sprayed in the boilermaker’s shop.
Diagnosed with an asbestos related disease
Many years later, in 2011, Mr Geyer was diagnosed with what his treating doctors believed was mesothelioma. He had already been diagnosed with asbestosis, another type of asbestos related disease in 2008. He already had proceedings on foot against ETSA in relation to his condition of asbestosis and amended his claim to claim damages for his condition of mesothelioma.
ETSA defended the claim on the basis that they would not admit that Mr Geyer suffered from mesothelioma. Ten different experts were called to give evidence in the case on the issue of whether or not Mr Geyer suffered from mesothelioma. The trial lasted for several weeks, the experts being in fierce disagreement on each side in relation to Mr Geyer’s diagnosis.
On 30 August 2013 His Honour Judge Jennings of the District Court of South Australia handed down Judgment finding that it was more probable than not that Mr Geyer did suffer from mesothelioma. On the basis of this finding Judge Jennings awarded the total sum of $327,474 in compensation to Mr Geyer. This award included $20,000 for exemplary damages against ETSA. This is the first award for exemplary damages against ETSA under the Dust Diseases Act 2005 (SA). Exemplary damages are awarded under the Act where a plaintiff can prove that the defendant knew at the time of his exposure to asbestos dust that he was at risk of exposure to asbestos dust and that exposure to asbestos dust could result in a dust disease. In making the award for exemplary damages Judge Jennings found that:
“…The defendant knew that whilst the plaintiff was working in the boiler shop, at least from 1973 onwards, that he was exposed to asbestos dust and that as a result he was at risk of contracting a dust disease.
Whilst the defendant is to be given some credit for taking measures to attempt to ameliorate the potential dangers to the plaintiff it plainly did not go far enough. There was certainly not enough to mitigate against an award of exemplary damages.”