The battle of a woman, who died of a cancer caused by inhaling asbestos, against the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) has come to and end as the High Court ruled she was entitled to ACC cover.
Deanne Trevarthen died in 2016 at the age of 45 of mesothelioma, or asbestos-related lung cancer. Her father worked as an electrician and she was exposed to asbestos as a child when he came home after work and hugged her and played with her. She also reportedly sometimes visited building sites where the toxic material was present. Her claim for financial help to the ACC was turned down because she had not been exposed to asbestos at work. After her death, her family continued a legal fight over the ACC’s rejection of her claim.
Now, as reported on by Radio NZ, the High Court ruled Trevarthen was entitled to cover because her exposure to asbestos and development of mesothelioma was a personal injury caused by an accident.
Her sister-in-law, Angela Calver, who continued the legal fight after Trevarthen’s death was quoted by the publication saying she hoped the ACC would make changes as a result of the High Court judgment. She hoped for the same help for people who have mesothelioma through secondary exposure to asbestos outside of their work.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Calver said. “All of us would much rather Deanna was here, 100%, but it’s good that her legacy will change it and make it better for other people.”
Meanwhile, one of the family’s lawyers, Tom Lynskey, told Morning Report if the ACC honoured the judgment it would set an important precedent.
“For the people who are affected it would mean a great deal, because it changes the treatment they can access, it changes the entitlements that they can access, it potentially changes that the surviving family have access to it as well,” he said.
However, the lawyer also noted the court ruling was unlikely to apply to certain types of cases because mesothelioma was a unique disease for which there was no known safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Radio NZ added that the ACC was considering the judgment but was not commenting further.