/ 16 September 2003

First payouts for asbestosis sufferers

The first relief payments are soon to be disbursed out of the Asbestos Relief Trust to five mesothelioma sufferers, claimant representative Reza Williams confirmed on Tuesday.

The trust was set up in July after Gencor paid out R460,5-million without admitting liability to former asbestos miners suffering from occupational diseases.

Williams, from the Moffat Mission in Kuruman in the Northern Cape, said on Tuesday the first five payments were to be interim disbursements.

The receivers had been given only a few months to live and the payments were to make their last days more comfortable.

The trust deed determined that payouts were to be made only after six months. However, the board of trustees had used its discretionary powers in the cases of the particular five sufferers, Williams said.

Three of them lived in Kuruman, one in Riversdal in the Western Cape and the fifth in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

Williams expected other payouts from the trust to commence from February 2004 onwards.

Several thousands of claimants were to be compensated from the trust, although an exact figure had not been determined yet, he said.

The trust was currently completing an actuarial investigation.

It held around R400-million in cash after money had been set aside for environmental rehabilitation costs and legal fees.

Williams said the procedure of payouts still had to be finalised.

More than one bank would be used to deposit the payments electronically into claimants’ accounts.

Legal firm Leigh, Day & Co announced earlier this month that its asbestosis claimants were to receive their compensation payments within weeks.

In a case related to the one against Gencor, Leigh, Day & Co represented around 7 500 Northern Cape claimants against the British firm Cape plc.

After years of legal wrangling, Cape plc agreed in March to pay 7,5-million pounds to the 7 500 claimants. It equalled around R97-million at the time. – Sapa