Sick teacher wins passive smoking payout
A secret payout to a Victorian teacher crippled with emphysema from smoke-filled staffrooms was made on the basis of strong medical evidence, the State's WorkCover Authority said today.
But it warned that the case was unique and it did not set a legal precedent.
Melbourne teacher Owen Brown, 54, took legal action in the County Court against Victoria's WorkCover Authority to get compensation for his chronic lung disease.
Mr Brown, an athlete, an asthmatic and a non-smoker, claimed years of working in smoke filled staff rooms had exacerbated his asthma and left him with chronic lung disease.
He is now gravely ill and needs a double lung transplant.
WorkCover settled the case out of court and Mr Brown received a a payout, believed to be more than $100,000.
WorkCover spokesman Brendan Wood said the medical evidence was on Mr Brown's side.
But he said other cases would be tested on their own merits, as the case did not set a legal precedent.
"While smoking is involved here, this is not a precedent regarding passive smoking," he told AAP.
"There was never any claim to causation. It has never been claimed that passive smoking caused this disease.
"It exacerbated a pre-existing injury.
"We did have good medical evidence to show that that was the case. For that reason we decided to make the payout."
Lawyer Eugene Arocca, of Maurice, Blackburn and Cashman, said the case should be a warning to employers.
"It's another one of those cases where ... even though the exposure may have stopped many years ago, organisations are not immune from being sued," he said.
"What we say is: this is really a warning.
"The lawyers are really going to start hitting the pubs and clubs that aren't enforcing the no smoking bans."