Family of the late Iraklis Roussos get landmark legal victory in the NT

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A landmark decision in the Northern Territory Supreme Court for the family of a Darwin builder with asbestos-related lung cancer will pave the way for hundreds of Australians to seek justice.

Leading dust diseases lawyers Maurice Blackburn brought the case against former asbestos product manufacturer Amaca on behalf of the estate of the late Iraklis Roussos.

The Roussos family’s construction business was responsible for much of the development of Darwin, and integral to rebuilding the community after the devastation of Cyclone Tracy.

In a decision published on May 13, the NT Supreme Court found that although Mr Roussos was a smoker, the asbestos he was exposed to through decades of building work materially contributed to his lung cancer.

The court awarded the estate more than $329,000 in damages and interest.

Jonathan Walsh, principal lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, described the outcome as vindication for the family’s brave fight against Amaca.

northern territory supreme court iraklis roussos
A landmark decision in the Northern Territory Supreme Court for the family of a Darwin builder with asbestos-related lung cancer will pave the way for hundreds of Australians to seek justice.

“This is a landmark decision for all asbestos victims, but especially those who have asbestos-related lung cancer,” Mr Walsh said.

“This decision makes it clear that asbestos and smoke caused Iraklis Roussos’ cancer and death. The defendant tried to blame our client on his smoking alone, but the court agreed that the asbestos exposure made a material contribution to his lung cancer.

“The evidence also showed that people who smoke and have exposure to asbestos are 100 times more likely to develop lung cancer, compared with someone who was exposed to just one of the risk factors.”

Mr Walsh said a previous High Court decision in 2010 had made it difficult for people with asbestos-related lung cancer to pursue compensation damages for their disease.

In that decision (Amaca Pty Ltd v Ellis), a plaintiff with lung cancer failed to mount sufficient medical evidence to prove their asbestos exposure materially contributed to their disease in light of their parallel smoking history.

“This week’s decision for the Roussos family sets a new precedent for these kinds of cases, and opens up opportunities for others who have similarly suffered as a result of asbestos exposure,” Mr Walsh said.

“Three times as many people are diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer than mesothelioma in Australia, yet very few of these are brought as legal claims.

“This significant victory brings renewed hope for access to justice for Australians suffering with diseases caused by asbestos exposure.”

Source: Maurice Blackburn.

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