Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyers have slammed CSR for its delay tactics in resolving compensation claims, following a recent settlement that stretched out for more than six months.
Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer, Maria McGarvie said in a recent case her client was one day off facing a trial, when CSR and its subsidiaries offered a settlement that came into line with settlements already agreed to by two other defendants.
She said the case was an example of what was becoming “a disturbing trend” of delay by CSR.
“Cases which used to be resolved in three months are now stretching out to six months and beyond,” Ms McGarvie said.
“When you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, time is precious and CSR knows that but we are finding that CSR is dragging these cases out more and more.
“We don’t know if it’s a new strategy or if they are just being bloody-minded, but it’s of no benefit to asbestos sufferers.”
“Common law remains the best way to be compensated because it’s a robust system that delivers good results but currently one of the players is not playing fair. But make no mistake, we are prepared to fight and so are our clients.”
Ms McGarvie said her client came into contact with asbestos products while as an apprentice electrician for Holeproof, and while working at the Wittenoom town and settlement during the 1960s, and when she visited the mine.
“My client used asbestos products over 30 years, particularly when doing work such as building switchboards, rewiring factories and installing air conditioning units.”
Ms McGarvie said the defendants included Holeproof, James Hardie (now Amaca) and CSR and its subsidiaries (Seltsam Pty Ltd and Midalco), which had owned the asbestos mine at Wittenoom and manufactured asbestos products.
“Claims against CSR and Midalco for asbestos exposure at the mine and town settlement were successfully litigated by Slater and Gordon 30 years ago. Given the history, it is extraordinary that CSR and its subsidiaries considered re-litigating these issues.”
Ms McGarvie said despite Holeproof and James Hardie making early settlement offers, CSR and its subsidiaries protracted the process through the litigation process, only settling a day before the matter was to go to trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
She said her client had to endure the “unnecessary stress” of preparing for a trial when the matter could have been settled earlier.
“The other defendants in this matter were all equally unimpressed at the position taken by the lawyers engaged by CSR and its subsidiaries, which is why they took the unusual step of offering to settle separately.“
She said her client, who resides in Ferntree Gully, discovered she had mesothelioma after being admitted to hospital in January this year.
Ms McGarvie’s client, who did not wish to be named, said:
"I am very glad that the matter has now finalised but it was difficult for me to have it dragged out for six months. I was warned about the situation and that it may take some time, but it was frightening to face the prospect of going to court while also being ill. I am happy it's all over."