On 26 October 2011, the WA Supreme Court handed down its decision in the matter of Lowes v Amaca Pty Ltd (formerly James Hardie & Co Pty Ltd).
The judgment of His Honour Justice Corboy runs to some 365 pages and it is a complex decision.
In short, the plaintiff suffered from malignant peritoneal mesothelioma which he alleged was caused by exposure to asbestos dust during childhood visits to a miniature railway at the Castledare Boys' Home.
The asbestos dust came from waste material negligently dumped there by the defendant.
Justice Corboy found that the plaintiff's exposure to respirable asbestos dust when visiting Castledare caused or materially contributed to the development of his mesothelioma. This finding was made despite the fact that His Honour also found the plaintiff had been exposed to ambient or background asbestos fibres during at least the first 20 years of his life.
The decision is significant primarily because of the plaintiff's relatively low exposure to asbestos dust during his visits to Castledare. The plaintiff's mother gave evidence that the plaintiff had visited Castledare to ride on the miniature railway on only between 4 and 6 occasions between about 1972 and 1975 and that on each occasion they only stayed there for about 2 or 3 hours.
The plaintiff's damages were assessed at $2,068,396.93.
An appeal may follow.
This case again highlights the dangers of asbestos exposure and clearly establishes that a risk of liability can arise even where relatively low doses of exposure are concerned and where there are other sources of exposure.
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