Dust Diseases Tribunal

History

The New South Wales Parliament created the Dust Diseases Tribunal in 1989 to ensure early hearings for plaintiffs with dust-related diseases.

Prior to this, these types of claims were made through the Supreme Court and District Court. After trade unions complained to Neil Pickard, the then Minister for Energy, that plaintiffs often died before their cases could be heard, a Bill was drawn up and presented to the NSW Parliament to propose the Tribunal.

The Dust Diseases Tribunal Act received assent on 23 May, 1989, giving the Tribunal exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases and determine claims for damages where exposure to dust, arising from negligence and breach of statutory duty, may have caused death or personal injury.

The Tribunal is a Court of Record. His Honour Judge O’Meally, then a Judge of the Compensation Court of New South Wales, heard the first case on 1 November, 1989.

The Tribunal put in place a number of mechanisms to allow claims made by seriously ill plaintiffs to be heard sometimes days or hours after a Statement of Claim is lodged. These include procedural provisions in the Act and the Supreme Court Rules (which apply to the Tribunal), as well as effective case-management systems.

In 2005, the State Government introduced the Claims Resolution Process (CRP) to provide for early exchange of information and mediation of claims between parties in order to reach speedier settlements. Cases that don’t settle through mediation return to the Tribunal for Hearing before a Judge, and urgent cases are fast-tracked through the process.

The CRP was revised in the Dust Disease Tribunal Regulation 2007 to adhere to the following objectives:

  1. to foster the early provision of information and particulars concerning claims in respect of asbestos-related conditions;
  2. to encourage early settlement of those claims; and
  3. to reduce legal and administrative costs in connection with those claims.

To deal with an increasing workload, more judicial appointments have been made over the years. The Tribunal is currently staffed by three Judges, one acting Judge, a Registrar and Registry staff.