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High Court determines pension claim

On 11 May 2018 the High Court of Australia handed down orders in Amaca Pty Ltd v Latz. Because Mr Latz is suffering from mesothelioma, the Court, which heard the case on 17 April 2018,  handed down its orders without delivering its reasons.

The High Court overturned the award of the loss of the age pension made the District Court of South Australia and upheld by the Full Court of South Australia. Mr Latz argued that because of his condition of mesothelioma his life was cut short and that he should be able to claim the age pension he would have received in the years he would have lived but for his mesothelioma. In New South Wales, the Dust Diseases Tribunal rejected similar claims made in the matters of Dibs v Amaca Pty Ltd and Landos v Amaca Pty Ltd.

The High Court also upheld the decision of the Full Court of South Australia in relation to the revisionary superannuation pension. Mr Latz worked for the State Public Buildings Department. On his retirement Mr Latz received a superannuation pension payable for the rest of his life. On his death, his de facto spouse will receive two thirds of his pension (reversionary pension). The trial judge awarded Mr Latz the loss of the pension ignoring the amount his de facto will receive after his death. The Full Court overturned this part of the decision holding that the Court must deduct from the loss of superannuation claim the amount of the reversionary pension.

The defendant also sought to argue in the High Court that the claim for loss of superannuation should not be allowed at all because it is not a claim for loss of earning capacity. This argument was rejected by the High Court.

The result of the High Court’s orders are to definitively rule out any claim for loss of the age pension on the one hand but to ensure claims can be made for loss of superannuation on the other. It is likely that courts will now have to deduct the any reversionary superannuation pension entitlements although until the reasons are published the basis for this order is not clear.

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