James Hardie asbestos fund ‘at risk’ after ruling
- From: AAP
- September 01, 2010 6:07PM
LAWYERS representing asbestos disease victims say a Federal Court ruling against James Hardie Industries SE could put victim compensation payments at risk.
James Hardie lost its appeal against an Australian Taxation Office assessment today and could be forced to pay back-taxes of $357.36 million plus interest and costs, barring a successful appeal.
Compensation lawyers Maurice Blackburn say the ruling is a blow to the company’s bottom line that could have consequences for mesothelioma victims.
“The ongoing uncertainty about James Hardie’s financial position raise concerns for the future victims of asbestos-related disease,” Maurice Blackburn principal Andrew Dimsey said.
Under an agreement with the NSW government, James Hardie pays 35 per cent of its annual cash flow to the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF) to compensate sufferers of asbestos-related diseases.
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However, the company’s disappointing first quarter result and poor outlook have raised fears the AICF could run out of funds.
James Hardie said this month the stalled US housing recovery would affect its bottom line in the current financial year.
“The long-term security of funding for asbestos-related claims is dependent on the recovery of the US housing market, which is unfair to the blameless victims of James Hardies misconduct,” Mr Dimsey said.
“It is important that there are sufficient funds available to people for decades to come.
“More than half of the people who will die from these horrendous lung diseases are yet to be diagnosed due to the delay between exposure and the onset of the disease.”
Mr Dimsey said Safe Work Australia reported the peak period for mesothelioma cases would be between 2014 and 2021.