Former BHP worker awarded $2.2m in asbestos case

A former worker who was exposed to asbestos at a New South Wales steelworks has won a record $2.2million damages claim against BHP Billiton.

The ABC reports that Cessnock man Steven Dunning, 54, was diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma in 2010. He began work as a labourer in the blast furnaces at the company's Newcastle steelworks in 1979 and worked there until 1981.

The Dust and Diseases Tribunal yesterday found BHP had negligently exposed Mr Dunning to the asbestos which caused the cancer.

"This is a landmark decision in New South Wales," Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer Joanne Wade said.

"The damages awarded today are the highest ever awarded [by the tribunal] in New South Wales and it's the first time BHP has been ordered by the Dust Diseases Tribunal to pay compensation to a former employee who was exposed to asbestos as their Newcastle steelworks."

According to the Newcastle Herald, Mr Dunning’s wife, Roma said she was disgusted by the fact that BHP did not take responsibility for the matter and fought the case in court.

‘‘Do you think any of those executives calling the shots are getting sick? Absolutely not. I just really want to urge anyone else who’s sick from asbestos to come forward,’’ she said. ‘‘Hopefully now BHP will be more accountable.’’

BHP has not ruled out appealing the decision.

"BHP Billiton is currently considering the judgment and given it could be subject to appeal, is not commenting further on the matter at this time," a spokeswoman said.

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