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Judge hands down largest ever award for general damages in mesothelioma case

In a recent mesothelioma claim, Segelov Taylor client, Ms Reid, was awarded $580,000.00 for damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenities. This is the largest award ever made by a judge for general damages in a mesothelioma claim in Australia. 

Ms Reid was exposed to asbestos during her childhood. In 1953, Ms Reid’s family moved to a home near the Melbourne Wunderlich factory in Sunshine. With other children in the street, she played on the mounds of asbestos waste left at the rear of the Wunderlich factory. She walked past the Wunderlich factory going to and from her primary school and secondary school each day, where there was visible dust around her. 

Ms Reid is the most recent of numerous residents of the area around the old Wunderlich factory to develop asbestos-related diseases as a result of the contamination of the area by Wunderlich. 

Ms Reid was diagnosed with mesothelioma on 15 April 2021 at the age of 69. Before her diagnosis, Ms Reid had enjoyed gardening, cooking, and caring for her grandson. Ms Reid looked after her grandson three days a week and had planned to continue to provide this care to both her grandson and granddaughter after her birth.  

In assessing general damages, Forbes J stated that the injury “has not simply diminished her quality of life, it is destroying it in every aspect.” This statement was indicative of the evidence before the Court. The general damages were reflective of Ms Reid’s role as the matriarch of her family, her participation in the lives of her grandchildren and her current poor quality of life. Lawyers for Wunderlich (now known as Seltsam) submitted a figure of only $250,000 for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. The judge rejected this submission and made an award very close to that submitted on behalf of Mrs Reid.  

The Award of $580,000 represents the ongoing acceptance by Courts of the devastating impact of diseases such as mesothelioma.  It follows the decision of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in another claim brought by Segelov Taylor – the case of Parkin v. Amaca Pty Ltd.  In that case the Court made the largest award for general damages in Western Australia in a mesothelioma claim.   

The Award was also significant in its award of damages for loss of capacity to provide gratuitous care. Under the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic), s 28ID provides that the Court may award damages for loss of capacity to provide gratuitous care. The Court was satisfied that the gratuitous care to a dependent, in this case, Ms Reid’s grandson and in the future her granddaughter, would have been for six hours per week for at least six consecutive months, and the provision of this care was reasonable (s 28ID (1)(c) and (d)). The evidence given and accepted by the Judge was that the care was to be provided until her grandchildren reached the end of their primary schooling. The damages for future loss of gratuitous care totalled $100,628.00.  

The full judgment can be found here. 

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