Miner dying from asbestos poisoning denied compo

A former miner with just six months to live has had his asbestos poisoning case dismissed in court due to a legal loophole.

Zorko Zabic filed a case against his former mine employer Rio Tinto for $425,000 to cover damages for pain and suffering, loss of expectation of life and negligence after contracting mesothelioma whilst working for the company.

Zabic, now 74, worked at the Nhulunbuy mine Alcan Cove for three years from 1974 until 1977.

It was during this time Zabic alleges he removed hundreds of asbestos pipes in his role.

“On every occasion dust was given off which polluted my immediate breathing space and entered my nasal passages,’’ he said in his testimony.

“The fine white dust particles would settle over my face, hair and clothing.”

Zabic has malignant mesothelioma cancer and is understood to have just six months left to live.

However the case was dismissed by Justice Peter Barr in the Supreme Court of NT because the claim for compensation was not submitted within the usual statute of limitation.

Due to the typically long latency period for mesothelioma, Zabic did not start suffering symptoms from the cancer until January 2014.

During his time of employment he was covered by the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

A section of the law introduced in 1987, Section 189(1), would have allowed Zabic to make a claim, but it had to be filed before that date.

The ruling was made despite the fact that Justice Barr said he was satisfied Zabic’s mesothelioma was caused by unprotected exposure to asbestos dust and fibres during the time he worked for the Rio at its Nhulunbuy alumina refinery.

“I am also satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by the negligence of the defendant,” Barr said.

“Unfortunately…the plaintiff’s claim is statute-barred and cannot succeed.”

Australia currently has the second highest level of mesothelioma in the world.

The full decision can be accessed here.

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