If a worker becomes ill with a disease of gradual onset as a result of working for more than one company, who foots the compensation bill?
In a recent case, a worker sought workers compensation from Weathertex, his most recent employer. He was diagnosed with nasal cancer on 15 February 2004 as a result of exposure to wood dust while sawmilling hardwood logs and chipping planks at a masonite factory in Newcastle. He worked at the factory from 15 March 1965 to 31 October 1998, while CSR Timber Products owned it, and from 1 November 1998 to 16 February 2004, while Weathertex owned it.
The Workers Compensation Commission held that Weathertex was the employer that last employed the worker and was liable to pay compensation. Weathertex disputed this claim on the basis CSR was liable because the injury was caused by CSR’s earlier employment of the worker.The High Court found that Weathertex had the right to pursue CSR in order to gain indemnity for the workers compensation payments.
The High Court’s decision could expose former employers of workers that contract a disease of gradual onset during the period of their employment with that employer to the risk of having to indemnify a subsequent employer that has been ordered to pay compensation by the Workers Compensation Commission.To find out what this could mean for you, talk to Foulsham & Geddes