19 February 2024

Terminally ill Canberran awarded more than $800,000 for asbestos exposure

| Claire Fenwicke
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Asbestos fibres

Asbestos is known to be the primary cause of mesothelioma, an incurable disease that usually impacts your lungs. Photo: Dean Papas.

A dying Canberra man has been awarded more than $800,000 in damages for repeated exposure to asbestos during his working years.

Henry John Bradley had taken Amaca Pty Ltd to court claiming his mesothelioma had been caused by the inhalation of asbestos dust and fibre coming from products manufactured and supplied by the company while he had been working as an apprentice carpenter and joiner, and as a self-employed carpenter.

The 79-year-old also said he’d been additionally exposed to asbestos-contaminated Amaca products while building a house on weekends.

The NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal heard Mr Bradley had lived a “very active life”, enjoyed travelling and had been president of the Canberra Fishing Club for 15 years.

He retired from being a carpenter in December 2022. He had been experiencing shortness of breath since September of that year, but health issues were not why he decided to hang up his tools.

“He was a happy man. He lived independently – an aspect of his life that has always been and remains very important to him,” Judge Wendy Strathdee noted in her judgment.

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Mr Bradley’s condition was confirmed in mid-December 2022 after he was admitted to National Capital Private Hospital with a collapsed right lung. Doctors informed him his malignant epithelioid mesothelioma had likely been caused by his exposure to asbestos.

“I actually broke down when I was told, and I cried. And I thought why should that happen to me?” he told the tribunal.

“Because I’d worked hard all my life … I’m very depressed about it, really. I’m very rundown. It has affected me.”

Along with the shortness of breath, Mr Bradley has been experiencing pain, nausea, numbness and weakness in his hands, fatigue and trouble sleeping. Some of this is the result of the immunotherapy he’s had to undergo since his diagnosis.

“He has been a very independent and private man, both of which have been stripped from him by his disease, which causes him to spend a lot of time in the motel [where he is currently living] resting and feeling very unwell,” Judge Strathdee noted.

“[Mr Bradley] struggles emotionally, experiencing sadness, depression and anxiety as a consequence of his diagnosis, and not being able to fulfil his retirement plans … [he] spends a lot of time ruminating, lying awake at night, wondering about what his retirement may have been had he not been diagnosed with a terminal condition.

“Unfortunately, the plaintiff’s prognosis is bleak despite the immunotherapy, his life has been destroyed, with an expected suffering period exceeding three years, leading to a very undignified death worsened by his awareness of its inevitability and imminence.”

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In her decision, Judge Strathdee considered Mr Bradley’s past and future suffering as well as his physical pain, emotional distress and grief associated with his impending death, and the costs of treating his disease.

Mr Bradley isn’t eligible for iCare Dust Diseases care and so has been paying for his treatments and care out of pocket.

She also considered the “horrid course” the end stages of his life would take, and what his eventual hospice care will cost.

Mr Bradley was ultimately awarded $832,402.12.

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