MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Victims push for James Hardie asbestos charges

Published by MAC on 2004-07-15

Victims push for James Hardie asbestos charges

July 15, 2004

ABC online

Lawyers representing victims of asbestos products have called for criminal charges to be laid against senior executives of the James Hardie company.

The commissioner overseeing an inquiry into James Hardie's asbestos liabilities will publish sections of submissions to the inquiry.

His order to keep the submissions confidential was lifted after the company released some of its submission.

James Hardie says it would make more payments if there were a new compensation system which would effectively cap payouts to victims.

Lawyer Peter Gordon says that is blackmail.

"It is effectively saying to the governments of this country, 'we've made off with this money, you can't catch us - it doesn't matter how dishonest we've been, unless you change the sovereign laws of this country exactly as it suits us, or you'll never see us again',' Mr Gordon said.

"Our submission alleges fraud, it alleges dishonesty, it alleges misleading and deceptive conduct."

As well as charging senior executives, the submission from unions and victims argues James Hardie should be pursued for the money.

The legal team assisting the inquiry has called for retrospective legislation to make holding companies liable for their subsidiaries.

The aim of the proposal is to allow asbestos victims to call on assets of the James Hardie building company, despite its separation from its former asbestos manufacturing subsidiaries.

The inquiry into the under funded foundation holding James Hardie's former subsidiaries has been told limited liability principles, which ensure the company is not liable to asbestos victims, should be reformed.

The legal team says liability for personal injury or death caused by a company should extend to the corporate group it is a part of.

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