Court clarifies that PIPA inapplicable to conditions secondary to dust-related diseases

14 June 2021

To aid in facilitating the efficient management of dust diseases matters the Court has declared that the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (and the requirement for pre-litigation steps) does not apply to personal injury that is or results from a dust-related condition.

In Issue

  • The Court was asked to interpret the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (the Act) in order to clarify whether the procedural requirements of the Act applied to conditions secondary to a dust-related condition.

The background

The applicant alleged to have sustained silicosis (a dust-related condition) and a secondary psychiatric injury as a result of exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the course of his work as a stonemason, foreshortening his life expectancy.

The words of the Act are clear that the applicant need not comply with pre-litigation steps in respect of his claim for silicosis. There was, however, uncertainty around whether a separate PIPA claim was necessary under the Act, for the related or secondary claim for damages. The applicant petitioned the Court for a declaration that it was not (i.e. that the PIPA does not apply to any part of his claim for damages).

The decision at trial

None of the respondents objected to the Court making the declaration sought by the applicant.

Accordingly, the Court examined the words and determined that on a proper construction s6(3)(b) of the Act ought to be read as though the Act does not apply to personal injury that is or results from a dust related condition.

Her Honour Justice Bowskill determined that a literal interpretation of the words of the Act did not achieve the purpose of the provision, rather they defeated it. Accordingly, Her Honour declared that the applicant was exempted from the obligation to comply with the provisions of the Act in respect of the whole of his claim for damages.

Implications for you

The case sensibly clarifies for the benefit of all parties involved in dust disease litigation that plaintiffs are not required to pursue separate causes of action for their dust-related disease and any secondary or related condition.

In doing so the Court has delivered a declaration that assists all parties in the pursuit of efficient and cost-effective access to justice, in particular where the often shortened life expectancy of applicants demands that matters be managed expeditiously.

Coleman v Caesarstone Australia Pty Ltd & Ors [2021] QSC 12

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