Lawyers for Bernie Banton, Australia’s leading advocate for the ban of asbestos, have announced that they’ve reached an agreement with James Hardie Corporation, the company responsible for Banton’s asbestos exposure. The 61-year-old currently lies in a Sydney area hospital, just days from death.
The Australian Newspaper reports that Banton reached the confidential agreement with Hardie’s compensation fund just hours before prominent witnesses, including former Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Greg Combet, were due to present testimony in the case.
Banton’s lawyer, Tanya Segelov, said the settlement was acceptable. Mrs. Banton agreed though no figures were released to the media.
“I am very relieved that it is all over and [I’m] satisfied, but certainly not happy,” Mrs. Banton said. “My husband’s dying,” she added.
She said her husband’s case, as with his role in the campaign to make Hardie meet its responsibilities to its asbestos victims, was not about money.
“It’s about justice,” Combet said.
According to the news article, Mr. Banton’s case was the first against Hardie to seek not only financial compensation but exemplary damages as well. The awarding of exemplary damages means that Hardie would be punished for “knowingly exposing its workers to potentially fatal levels of asbestos dust.”
Ms. Segelov said the fact that Mr. Banton had brought the case for exemplary damages and achieved a settlement could enable other asbestos victims to follow the same approach.
“I think it will help other people. This is what Bernie had in mind from the start,” she said.