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Terminally ill client - outcome paves way for future claims

    Occupational diseases
    15 January 2019

    $600,000 compensation for terminally ill factory worker paves the way for future claims

    A former Mentone factory worker has received over $600,000 in a non-economic lump sum payment as part of an out-of-court settlement that acknowledged his terminal illness could have been caused by exposure to a toxic chemical throughout his career.

    The 74-year-old father of three also received an entitlement to cover his medical and other expenses, in what is believed to be the first such claim against Nylex Corporation Pty Ltd, a now closed plastics processing factory in Mentone.

    The compensation was obtained on the man’s behalf by the family-run, suburban law firm Zaparas Lawyers, and could pave the way for similar claims by workers exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace.

    The man, who lives in Lyndhurst, spent 40 years working as a machine operator at Nylex Corporation, where he was exposed to the chemical Benzene on a daily basis. 

    The man is now dying from Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a cancer-like illness that is also known as a pre-leukemic disorder.

    Zaparas Lawyers’ associate lawyer Kehela Vandenberg, who is based at the firm’s Oakleigh office, said she was keen to help any other former factory workers who had been exposed to Benzene or other toxic chemicals and were now suffering illnesses.

    Ms Vandenberg said poisoning by Benzene was one of 25 proclaimed diseases, deemed through Victorian legislation to be automatically due to the nature of a worker’s employment given their association with a place, process or occupation

    She said workers suffering from a proclaimed disease, or their dependents, if the worker had passed away, were entitled to WorkCover compensation unless WorkSafe could prove the disease was not due to the worker’s employment.

    Similarly, for non-proclaimed diseases, while there is no automatic entitlement to WorkCover compensation, there must still be a connection between the nature of the employment and the disease suffered by the worker. This is in contrast to entitlements for workers who suffer a non-disease work-related injury, such as a broken bone, who need to show that their employment was a cause of the injury.

    In this case, it is known that Benzene can cause MDS and that there can be exposure when working in plastic processing or manufacture.

    “The final payout we secured for our client was over $600,000, which is the maximum he could have received under the law for statutory benefits compensation,” Ms Vandenberg said.

    “This payout was significant for securing the financial future of my client and his family.”

    Ms Vandenberg said she believed there would be other workers who worked alongside her client and were exposed to similar levels of Benzene, which was widely used as a solvent and is still used as a starting agent in the manufacture of plastics, rubbers and dyes.

    Exposure to Benzene is mainly caused by breathing air containing the chemical, but it can also be absorbed through the skin.

    Benzene at low concentrations over many years has been found to cause illnesses such as cancer, bone marrow depression and haematotoxicity.

    The man’s daughter said her father had been a different man since the payout.

    “He is so relaxed. It has made our lives so much easier. He was speechless when [they] informed us of the outcome," she said.

    “It was not about the money but, because of Zaparas Lawyers, the outcome was unbelievable." 

    “We recommend that others in a similar position go straight to Zaparas Lawyers.”

    If you, or someone you know, is currently or has previously worked in an occupation where they may have been exposed to a hazardous substance, it is recommended you consult a general practitioner or specialist to determine if you have any conditions or diseases.

    Zaparas Lawyers has a team of lawyers who specialise in helping people submit legal claims related to occupationally-caused illness and disease, and maximise their entitlements under the WorkCover system. 

    If you or someone you know is at risk of developing and/or has been diagnosed with occupational disease, contact Zaparas Lawyers now for an obligation and cost free chat about your potential legal entitlements.

    Zaparas Lawyers was established by the Zaparas family in 1981 and are experts in personal injury law. Specialising in WorkCover, TAC, public liability and superannuation related claims, Zaparas Lawyers operates from nine locations throughout Victoria and one in Queensland are committed to achieving the best outcomes for our clients. 

    Media contact: Elita Araouzou (03) 8527 0200