The Guardian 16 November, 2005

Disabled family members dudded

A disabled woman whose husband died because of asbestos exposure has been stripped of $165,000 awarded to take care of her.

In a landmark decision, the High Court overturned damages awarded to John Thompson to care for his wife after he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma as a result of working in an asbestos factory.

Beveley Thompson, 63, suffers from arthritis in the spine and is unable to do household tasks, such as vacuuming, cleaning and gardening, which her husband John did until his condition took over.

Mr Thompson worked at the factory, owned by CSR and supplied with asbestos by Midalco, between 1960 and 1963. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2002 and died in November 2003.

Mrs Thompson said her husband had gone through "pure agony" and "lived with the fear for years" knowing his contact with asbestos would eventually strike him down.

The Dust Diseases Tribunal of NSW ruling ordered CSR and Midalco to pay $465,899.49 in damages to Mr Thompson in April 2003, including $165,480 in special damages to care for Beverley.

However, the High Court ruled that care of disabled family members should be accounted for in general damages, not in special damages.

The decision means any person who suffers personal injury cannot claim special damages for the care of disabled family members.

"Without that money itís going to be difficult to employ people to do that [do the chores she cannot do] for me", Mrs Thompson said.

Alex Stuart, of Alex Stuart & Associates, which represented John Thompsonís estate in the case, said it was a terrible decision for workers.

"Weíre yet to see an increase in general damages, but it is unlikely that it will reach the position it was at", Stuart said.

"He [Mr Thompson] wanted to die with peace of mind."

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