New laws to assist victims of dust-related diseases

The South Australian parliament has passed urgent laws that will allow the families of asbestos victims to seek compensation on behalf of the asbestos sufferers. Under the legislation, South Australia will have its own Dust Diseases Tribunal to hear actions from asbestos sufferers.

The SA Dust Diseases Tribunal will be established as a separate division of the SA District Court.

The chief judge of the District Court will make special court rules for dealing with dust disease actions. Until such rules are made, each dust disease action will be assigned to a judge or master who will give the necessary directions to ensure that the action progresses through the Tribunal and is dealt with in the same way as a corresponding action before the Dust Diseases Tribunal of NSW.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian Attorney General Judy Jackson said the state government would amend the Administration and Probate Act 1935 so that general damages claims would survive the death of sufferers of dust-related diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Both asbestosis and mesothelioma can progress very quickly after diagnosis, but it may take many years for the symptoms to become evident, Ms Jackson said.

"In this respect, the law as it stands potentially disadvantages those Tasmanians who suffer from a latent dust-related disease that may have been negligently caused, where the plaintiff dies before finalisation of the claim."

She said the changes would ease the pressure on sick and dying plaintiffs to push ahead with litigation as quickly as possible, as well as removing the potential for defendants to drag out legal proceedings unneccessarily.

Ms Jackson said the changes would bring Tasmania into line with other Australian States, where the families of victims of dust-related disease can sue even after the death of their loved one.

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