Dead Woman Wins Landmark Asbestos Payout


A Sydney grandmother, Margaret Dawson, has won a landmark compensation case against her spouse’s employer, even though she is not alive.

Mrs. Dawson died last year at the age of 64, but was awarded $550,000 by the NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal a little more than a week ago. She had taken legal action against the building materials manufacturer James Hardie. Mrs. Dawson had washed her husband’s asbestos-contaminated clothes for decades.

She claimed that 20 years of washing her husband Maurice’s work clothes gave her mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Mrs. Dawson passed away 18 months into her court battle. She was the caretaker of the grandchildren and now that she is no longer alive, stated prosecutors, her family should be compensated.

Ms Dawson’s tribunal victory has opened the door for those who care for asbestos workers to claim compensation, Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia president Barry Robson said. He also made it clear that it was imperative for the victims to maintain the battle.

“I think Margaret Dawson is up there with the Bernie Bantons of this world,” Robson told Sky News on Monday, referring to the social justice campaigner who fought to gain compensation for asbestos-disease patients.

“She is the standard now for all wives and mothers and carers. They all should now be looking for compensation,” said Robson, adding that “It’s an excellent result.”

“It’s the first time courts have awarded compensation for a carer.

“They’re hoping that the victim dies and the case dies with them, but Margaret wasn’t going to let that happen.

“Unfortunately, Margaret never lived to see the result, but it will be her legacy.”

Robson said secondary exposure is not unusual. An employee who works in an asbestos contaminated setting is advised to change clothes and shower before returning home, as the asbestos fibers can be released into the air causing others to inhale it indirectly.

“It’s quite common for wives to come down with disease after washing their husband’s work clothes in all sorts of occupations,” he said.

Dawson’s daughter, Corina Novek said her mother came to help out with her family so that she could return to work.

“I know she would be happy that this will help other families,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

“But I would give it all back in a second to have her back. The kids just adored her.”

James Hardie did not return calls seeking comment on Ms Dawson’s settlement.


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