Bernie Banton’s fight until the end
The much talked about miniseries premiered on ABC in 2012 is the Devil’s Dust. This was based on the true story of Mr Bernie Banton and his battle against his former employer, James Hardie.
Bernie Banton, a previous factory worker for the James Hardie factory in Parramatta, from 1968 to 1974, was diagnosed with severe asbestos related pleural disease and asbestosis in 1999 and further succumbing to mesothelioma in 2007.
Bernie Banton enlisted the help of Turner Freeman Partner in 1999 and together they brought a successful claim against Amaca Pty Limited (formerly known as James Hardie & Coy Pty Limited) in the Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales. The Partner settled Bernie’s original claim for asbestosis on a provisional damages basis. This meant Bernie was able to bring further court proceedings again in the future should he develop another asbestos disease such as mesothelioma or lung cancer. Bernie’s settlement was one of the first provisional damages settlements in New South Wales.
This proved to be a fated event because in a separate incidence unrelated to Bernie’s asbestosis and asbestos related pleural disease Bernie contracted mesothelioma in 2007. Mesothelioma is an asbestos related cancer caused only by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos disease is unlike most other types of compensable personal injury as the events which give rise to the injury, that is the exposure to asbestos, occur many years prior to the development of the injury or the injury becoming symptomatic. For instance, the average latency period, which refers to the period between first exposure to asbestos and development of disease, in the case of mesothelioma, is about 35 years. Asbestos also tends to cause conditions not caused by any other substances.
In Bernie’s time he had seen many of his friends and even his own brother struck down with asbestos disease and after his initial diagnosis of asbestosis and asbestos related pleural disease Bernie began fighting for sufferers and their families’ rights. He was passionate and this was reflected in his attitude to fighting James Hardie for their negligence in the past.
Unfortunately, on 27 November 2007 Bernie sadly lost his fight with mesothelioma. Bernie and his avid campaigning will never be forgotten and will sadly be missed.