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.