John Francis Talifero was born in England. He had some exposure to asbestos in England while serving in the British Navy and while working before he came to Australia in 1971. From 1971 to 1995 he worked as a painter and during this period had exposure to asbestos whilst sanding, cutting and drilling James Hardie asbestos cement fibro sheets.
Mr Talifero contracted mesothelioma and brought a claim against Amaca Pty Limited (formerly James Hardie & Coy Pty Limited) in the Dust Diseases Tribunal of NSW. The claim related only to his exposure to asbestos in Australia. The Dust Diseases Tribunal found that Mr Talifero’s mesothelioma was caused by his exposure to asbestos from James Hardie’s products in Australia and awarded him damages in the sum of $560,048.00.
James Hardie paid only 52% of the Judgment on the basis that the Trustees of the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF) (the Fund that pays verdicts against the James Hardie companies) determined that a deduction of 48% should be made to reflect Mr Talifero’s exposure to asbestos while in the British Navy.
Mr Talifero’s estate (Mr Talifero having died on the morning of his hearing) argued that the terms of the Final Funding Agreement did not require a deduction where the claim was brought solely in relation to exposure to asbestos in Australia. The AICF applied for advice from the Supreme Court of NSW as to how the agreement should be interpreted. Initially the Supreme Court provided advice to the effect that the AICF was justified in only paying 52% of the damages.
On our advice, the estate of the late Mr Talifero appealed the decision to the NSW Court of Appeal and on 11 October 2018, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and advised the AICF to pay 100% of the damages awarded by the Dust Diseases Tribunal.
The AICF sought leave to appeal the decision to the High Court. Leave to appeal was denied in early 2019 and Mr Talifero’s widow finally received the full damages awarded to her late husband’s estate.
Mr Talifero’s case is of enormous significance for all persons who are exposed to asbestos both oversees and in Australia who have sued James Hardie who will now be able to recover all the damages awarded.