National law firm Slater and Gordon has welcomed changes to court procedures in South Australia which will allow for faster response times for asbestos related cases.
Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer Tim Downie said measures recently announced by Attorney General John Rau would reduce the court waiting times for terminally ill asbestos sufferers.
“Many of our clients have had to wait several months, sometimes up to six months, for the right to go to trial and in some circumstances our clients have died before their trial date and it’s been a tragedy,” Mr Downie said.
“This is a great shame for those people who have passed away without the peace of mind of knowing whether they have won their case or left something for their family.”
Mr Downie said as part of the new changes asbestos claims that were previously lodged in the District Court would be managed through a judge in the Industrial Relations Court.
“It means that each matter will be allocated a judge to manage the claim so that it moves quickly through the litigation stages and, if required, then it can be listed for an urgent trial,” he said.
Mr Downie, who recently met with Attorney General John Rau and Senior Judge Jennings of the Industrial Relations Court, said he was very encouraged by the news.
“Since the commencement of the Dust Diseases Act in 2006 the power has been there for the courts to push urgent cases for terminal sufferers through the system, so that they have the best chance of having their cases heard in their lifetime, but we have found that the court has had insufficient resources for these urgent matters to be listed for a quick trial.”
“I am very encouraged by this move to allocate appropriate resources and by the commitment to ensure that asbestos victims have their claims dealt with expediently.”
Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia (ADSSA) President Ian Sheppard said the changes were welcomed by the society.
“The more than can be done to help asbestos victims get access to justice, the better,” Mr Sheppard said.
The changes are currently being implemented and will be effective from early next year.