WA asbestos victims will be able to have the company responsible for their exposure pay for advanced yet costly immunotherapy treatments following a landmark legal victory in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
The court yesterday ordered James Hardie’s Amaca fund to pay more than $1.04 million in damages to 63-year-old Perth woman Christine Parkin. This includes tens of thousands of dollars for Keytruda treatment, an advanced immunotherapy drug not currently covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
The case — the first mesothelioma matter to run to judgement in WA since 2011 — also resulted in a long-awaited recalibration of how general damages are calculated, with Justice Rene Le Miere awarding a record $360,000.
Ms Parkin, who came to Australia from the United Kingdom as an eight-year-old, was exposed to James Hardie asbestos products in the 1970s and 80s while assisting her father with renovations of the family home in Orelia. In September 2019, she was diagnosed with the aggressive asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
Ms Parkin’s solicitor, Segelov Taylor Lawyers principal Tanya Segelov, said the decision would benefit all future asbestos victims in WA, providing improved compensation and access to advanced treatments.
“Despite her own declining health, Christine Parkin took this matter to court knowing that it would set a significant precedent for all future mesothelioma sufferers,” Mr Segelov said.
“While WA continues to have the highest per capita rates of mesothelioma in Australia, the fact that no cases had run to judgement since 2011 meant compensation arrangements were lagging far behind other states.
“This decision sets a powerful precedent that resets how general damages are calculated, as well as confirming that the companies responsible for the asbestos exposure are required to pay for advanced immunotherapy treatments such as Keytruda.”
Ms Segelov said the compensation of $1,041,480.00 included a general damages component that was 40 per cent above the previous highest award.
“Companies like James Hardie have relied on a lack of judicial direction to pay compensation to WA asbestos victims that is well below the standard in other states, but with this judgement the Supreme Court has put an end to that,” Ms Segelov said.
“All future mesothelioma sufferers will now be able to have their cases measured against this higher bar, resulting in far better outcomes for them and their families.”