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High Court ruling delivers justice for silicosis sufferer

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Media Release

Published on

A Guildford man will finally receive a six-figure compensation payment after the High Court this week ruled that he developed silicosis while on the job.

On Wednesday, the High Court ruled in favour of former labourer and stonemason, Nawaf Hawchar, upholding his claim for compensation against former employer Dasreef Pty Ltd.

National law firm Slater and Gordon, representing Mr Hawchar, had argued that the basis of the appeal lodged with the court was insufficient to deny Mr Hawchar compensation for his serious illness.

In rejecting an appeal from Dasreef, the High Court ruled that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Mr Hawchar suffers from silicosis, which was substantially caused by Mr Hawchar’s exposure to silica through the course of his work over a period of six years.

The judgment means that Mr Hawchar is now entitled to receive damages for the injuries he incurred through his work at the company.

The High Court challenge was the latest in a string of appeals that had been filed on behalf of the employer in relation to the case. This appeal focused on the admissibility of a report under the expert opinion provisions of the Evidence Act.

While the High Court found that Dust Diseases Tribunal had erred in accepting part of a report and considering it expert testimony, it also found that there was no basis for a challenge to the origins and cause of Mr Hawchar’s medical condition.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Baiba Thomas said the decision marks the end to a difficult chapter in her client’s life.

“Mr Hawchar has been through quite an ordeal ever since developing silicosis. He has had to fight through the debilitating symptoms associated with his disease,” Ms Thomas said.

“To this point he has had to struggle through his health problems without any certainty about his future, financially.

“The High Court has put an end to that uncertainty with a bold and pragmatic decision.

“Mr Hawchar now has some resolution about what his future holds, and he can get on with living his life,” Ms Thomas said.

The High Court decision also has a clarifying effect for the application of evidence and the admissibility of expert reports which will benefit the broader justice system in Australia.

Ms Thomas said she was glad the case will have broader ramifications for similar cases in the future.

“I am pleased to have been a part of this case. As well as helping a hard-working man get back on his feet, I hope that the judgment will provide clarity for other people accessing the courts as we go forward.