Thalidomide survivors' compensation approved

Last updated 20:34 07/02/2014

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More than 100 Australians and New Zealanders living with severe birth defects caused by thalidomide will begin receiving compensation payments within a few months, lawyers say.

A total of NZ$96 million will be paid out to the 107 claimants in a class action after the Victorian Supreme Court gave final approval to the historic settlement on Friday.

Victims' lawyer Michael Magazanik said the approval of the payment ended 50 years of injustice for thalidomide survivors.

"They have suffered hardship for many years but at least now they will be compensated for their injuries," Mr Magazanik said in a statement.

"Payments are expected to be made within a few months."

In court on Friday lawyer Peter Gordon, also acting for the victims, said the settlement was a fair and compassionate resolution.

He said there were no objectors and no objections.

"No one has submitted any complaint," Mr Gordon said.

Justice David Beach said the settlement was more than fair.

"Each person is to be commended for their part," he said.

The settlement between thalidomide distributor Diageo and victims reached in December ends a long compensation battle by the thalidomide victims, many of whom were born with missing or shortened limbs.

The drug's manufacturer, Grunenthal, was not included in the settlement.

A formal apology made by Grunenthal in September was dismissed by victims as "pathetic" and came just months after Grunenthal issued a statement vowing to fight any legal proceedings.

Wendy Rowe, mother of prominent Melbourne thalidomide survivor Lynette Rowe, said at the time Grunenthal - which attributed its failure to respond to "silent shock" - didn't know what shock was.

"We had to get up and face each day, every day, and cope with the incredible damage that Grunenthal caused to Lynne and our family," Mrs Rowe said.

Lynette Rowe reached a multi-million-dollar settlement with Diageo in July 2012.

At the time her family said it would give her some independence.

Now other thalidomide victims can hope for the same thing.

Thalidomide, a drug to counter morning sickness, was withdrawn from sale in 1961.

The drug was distributed in Australia and New Zealand about 1960 and 1961 by Distillers, which became part of Diageo in 1997.

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