James Hardie Victims Outraged

Australian asbestos victims are outraged at the High Court of Australia’s decision to reduce the penalties of the former James Hardie directors.

The NSW Supreme Court originally banned the former James Hardie directors from managing companies, after they were found to have breached their duties by releasing misleading information about an asbestos fund.

According to the ABC, the former James Hardie executives and directors misled investors with a press release that claimed an asbestos compensation fund was “fully funded” to meet claims against it.

The original disqualification period from the NSW Supreme Court was five years for the non-executive directors, which has now been reduced after the consideration of mitigating circumstances such as their contributions to the community and qualified contrition.

However for people who are now suffering asbestos diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma as a result of James Hardie’s products, the ruling is unjust and offensive. James Hardie not only knowingly exposed these victims to asbestos, a known carcinogen, but then made misleading statements about the asbestos compensation fund.

Australia currently has one of the highest incidences of mesothelioma despite the official ban of asbestos use Australia-wide in 2004. This is because Australia was the highest user of asbestos per capita between around 1950 and 1980.

As such, many Australian states including NSW, Victoria and South Australia have introduced legislation to assist those suffering asbestos conditions pursue an asbestos compensation claim. An example can be found in the South Australian legislation. Asbestos claims in South Australia, such as mesothelioma compensation in South Australia, are assisted specifically by legislation introduced by the South Australian Government.

James Hardie profit

On 21 May 2012 the ABC reported that James Hardie returned to profit in the financial year ending 31 March 2012.

James Hardie announced they made a $615 million profit during this period which included asbestos liabilities.

From an Australian asbestos compensation point of view, a profitable James Hardie is important. If James Hardie is in profit, they will continue to contribute monies into the asbestos compensation fund.

Mesothelioma compensation in Australia has been provided to persons who have developed this asbestos condition after being exposed to products manufactured by James Hardie in the past.

Australian Federal Minster on James Hardie asbestos court case

On 3 May 2012, the Australian Federal Minister Greg Combet issued a press release in respect to the recent decision of the High Court concerning James Hardie.

The Canberra Court made a determination against the former directors of James Hardie.

The Minister said:
“Eight years of litigation later, the High Court has vindicated the conviction that Bernie Banton and I, and many others, had in relation to this issue.”

Bernie Banton passed away from mesothelioma in 2007.

Mr Combet also thanked the many Australians who continue to campaign for justice for asbestos victims

James Hardie TV series

An ABC two part mini series was due to finish filming on 5 May 2012.

The TV mini serious called “Devils Dust” is to be based on real events and to follow the lives of key players in the James Hardie asbestos saga including Bernie Banton, who passed away from mesothelioma in 2007.

Bernie Banton, a former employee of James Haride, prior to his death worked tirelessly to help those suffering asbestos conditions such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. He was also passionate about ensuring future victims of asbestos conditions such as mesothelioma were able to pursue compensation in Australian courts.