More damages for former Fluffy owners

FORMER Mr Fluffy homeowners who successfully sued a law firm for negligence and breach of contract have been awarded extra compensation.

The ACT Supreme Court last year ordered Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers to pay Karen McLennan and Andrew Spong $37,638.34 in damages, after Associate Justice Verity McWilliam found the firm had been negligent while advising the couple in their purchase of a home affected by Mr Fluffy asbestos.

The payout took into account expenses including asbestos assessment, moving costs, and rent for alternative accommodation.

But the couple took the case to the ACT Court of Appeal, contending that Associate Justice McWilliam had made 19 errors in determining the extent of damages.

The grounds for appeal included that it had been wrong for Associate Justice McWilliam to find that because the couple participated in the ACT government’s Mr Fluffy buyback and demolition scheme, they had been “fully restored” to the position they were in before the law firm’s negligence.

Ms McLennan and Mr Spong sought damages of $767,971.48, plus interest, as part of the appeal.

But the appeals court found on Wednesday that Associate Justice McWilliam had made only one error, which was failing to award interest on the original damages.

The court increased the couple’s compensation payout by $7022.68, meaning they will now receive $44,661.02.

A judgment handed down on Wednesday says Ms McLennan and Mr Spong were looking for a family home in 2009 when they found a four-bedroom house in Griffith.

They hired Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers to advise them through the purchase, and saw a conveyancing clerk.

“They did not see a qualified solicitor but they did not know that this was the case at the time,” the judgment says. “They received only very limited advice about the possible presence of asbestos on the premises.”

The judgment says the law firm only gave the couple the opportunity to “skim read” the contract for sale, which included documents relating to the presence of asbestos.

The asbestos information in the contract required someone to properly explain the precise risks and consequences to the couple, but the law firm did not do this.

The couple did not learn that their home was affected by Mr Fluffy asbestos until 2013, when they were informed by a tradesman.

The following year, the ACT government advised them to have the property tested and asbestos fibres were found in the house.

The couple accepted an ACT government buyback offer of $1,876,000 and their home was knocked down. They later paid about $2,596,000 to repurchase the cleared block and have a new home built on it.

Article was originally published in the Canberra Times.

Posted in News

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