Asbestos victim with months to live will continue to be cared for in serviced apartment rather than nursing home

Judge Wendy Strathdee said it was reasonable for Mr Phillips to be cared for in the rented serviced apartment that has views of the Esplanade and beach at Cronulla. Picture: John Veage
Judge Wendy Strathdee said it was reasonable for Mr Phillips to be cared for in the rented serviced apartment that has views of the Esplanade and beach at Cronulla. Picture: John Veage

A man suffering terminal asbestos cancer mesothelioma has won the right to continued care in a serviced apartment at Cronulla rather than having to spend his final months in a nursing home.

The Dust Diseases Tribunal of NSW awarded Ronald William Phillips, 84, a total of $664,393.03 plus costs in a judgement against asbestos producer James Hardie.

Judge Wendy Strathdee said it was reasonable for Mr Phillips, who has only months to live, to be cared for in the rented, beachside apartment with a combination of nursing care and care provided by family and friends.

"He deserves to be comfortable and, to the extent, that he might find some comfort looking out from the balcony to see his beloved beach and boardwalk, it is reasonable for that to be provided to him," the judge said.

The tribunal was told, between 1977 and 1985, Mr Phillips, an architectural designer, helped a friend with building and construction work in Sutherland Shire, during which he handled, swept up and worked with asbestos cement in other ways.

Late last year, Mr Phillips was diagnosed with mesothelioma and his health has rapidly deteriorated since then, requiring 24 hour nursing care.

The tribunal was told, up until he became ill last year, Mr Phillips lived in an apartment at Cronulla, was fiercely independent, extremely fit and involved in many activities including dancing and walking long distances along the Esplanade.

He had since been moved to the serviced apartment, where he he is cared for by nurses and family.

Segelov Taylor Lawyers brought a claim on his behalf against James Hardie (now Amaca Pty Ltd) just before Christmas.

Lawyers for James Hardie argued the company should only be required to pay for Mr Phillips to be cared for in a nursing home, a lower cost option that continuing present arrangements.

Segelov Taylor Lawyers principal Tanya Segelov said the decision opened the door for other sufferers of asbestos diseases to choose to receive care at home.

"This is a significant decision that not only provides peace of mind to Mr Phillips during this terrible time, but will allow his family to respect his wishes to not be put in a nursing home during the final months of his life," she said.

"This decision is important for the hundreds of Australians who every year are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a painful and debilitating cancer that kills people often within a year of diagnosis.

"Families can be reassured they will be compensated for commercial help in their home, and that the burden will not fall on the loved one alone."