James Hardie has been ordered to pay $664,000 so a terminally ill Sydney man can die at a beachside apartment some 40 years after he was exposed to asbestos while helping a friend with renovations.
Ron Phillips, 84, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 2018 and now requires 24-hour nursing care. His condition is rapidly deteriorating.
Lawyers for Mr Phillips lodged a claim against James Hardie - now known as Amaca - in the Dust Diseases Tribunal of NSW seeking damages after he contracted the cancer.
The retired architectural designer wanted the company to pay for his medical care in the community but the construction giant argued it should only be forced to cover the cheaper option of care in a nursing home.
Judge Wendy Strathdee found in Mr Phillips' favour, saying it was reasonable for him to continue to be accommodated in a serviced apartment in Cronulla, with full-time care from nurses, family and friends.
"He deserves to be comfortable and to the extent that he may find some comfort looking out from the balcony to see his beloved beach and boardwalk, it is reasonable for that to be provided to him," Judge Strathdee said in her written ruling.
She awarded him $350,000 in general damages plus more than $152,700 in future care costs.
James Hardie has been ordered to pay $664,400 in total taking into account past expenses and care, and interest.
Judge Strathdee said everything Mr Phillips was and did in his life had been destroyed "as a consequence of the defendant's negligence". She described the mesothelioma diagnoses as an "evil blow".
Mr Phillips only has about three months to live, according to experts.
"His regimented and organised life has been thrown into complete disarray, and his former personality and life have been switched off like a light," the judge said.
The 84-year-old's lawyer, Tanya Segelov, said the decision opened the door for other people who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases to choose to receive care at home.
"Families can be reassured that they will be compensated for commercial help in their home and that the burden of caring for a loved one and keeping them at home will not fall on the loved one alone," she said in a statement.
Australian Associated Press