History of the Tribunal
NSW 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 of NSW and the NSW District Court.
The Tribunal is a Court of Record.
His Honour Judge John Lawrence O’Meally AM RFD was appointed the first President of the Dust Diseases Tribunal. Judge O'Meally heard the first case on 1 November 1989. Prior to his appointment, Judge O’Meally was on the Compensation Court of New South Wales.
The President is the principal judicial officer of the Tribunal and is appointed by the Governor pursuant to the Dust Diseases Tribunal Act 1989.
In 2014, the Honourable Justice D M Price AO was appointed President of the Tribunal.
What led to the Tribunal
Trade unions had appealed to the then NSW Minister for Energy Neil Pickard that plaintiffs often died before their cases could be heard.
In response, a Bill was put forward and the Dust Diseases Tribunal Act was passed by the NSW Parliament on 23 May, 1989.
The Act gives 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 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 that apply to the Tribunal, as well as effective case-management systems.
Introduction of the Claims Resolution Process
In 2005, the NSW 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 do not settle through mediation return to the Tribunal for Hearing before a Judge. Urgent cases are fast-tracked through the process.
The CRP was revised in the Dust Disease Tribunal Regulation 2013 to meet specific objectives to:
- foster the early provision of information and particulars concerning claims in respect of asbestos-related conditions
- encourage early settlement of those claims
- reduce legal and administrative costs in connection with those claims.
Further changes to the workings of the Tribunal
In September 2019, the Dust Disease Tribunal Regulation 2019 took effect. This regulation provides for:
- the fees payable in respect of Tribunal proceedings
- the claims resolution process for the settlement of asbestos-related claims
- the use of subpoenas to give evidence or produce documents or things
- the making and acceptance of offers of compromise and the consequences of rejecting an offer
- other matters of a machinery or ancillary nature.
This Regulation is made under the Dust Diseases Tribunal Act 1989, including sections 20, 32H, 32I and 34.