Justice fight for mesh sufferer
One woman’s determination could win ACC for hundreds, writes Cate Broughton.
Jim Penman, founder of Jim’s Mowing, one of the world’s biggest lawn-mowing franchises, said demand for mowing lawns was still going up.
‘‘The interest in lawns is not dying,’’ Penman said.
In the past year Jim’s Mowing had 10,000 new New Zealand customers. Another 5000 were turned down because it didn’t have enough franchises to cope with the demand, he said.
Most people weren’t aware of the environmental issues around lawns, or they just didn’t care, he added.
New Zealand Crown research institute Landcare ecologist Colin Meurk said too much herbicide was being used on lawns and we should instead be growing selfsustaining shrublands or forests.
‘‘We create a problem for ourselves when we fertilise, water and herbicide our lawns – we then have to mow them more frequently,’’ Meurk said.
‘‘If we let them run down and become less fertile they would be more interesting in terms of wild flowers, both native and exotic, and they wouldn’t require such frequent mowing.’’
AUT history professor Paul Moon said manicured lawns originated from the rural to urban drift, when newcomers to the city attempted to psychologically bring the farm with them. ‘‘It’s there almost as an echo from a nostalgic past,’’ he said.
But romantic as wildflower meadow verges sounds, he was not convinced they would catch on. ‘‘They’ll discover there’s a lot of work, off-seasons, dealing with weeds.
‘‘After a year or so they’ll discover it’s not all roses.’’ A manager whose career was cut short after suffering chronic postsurgery pain hopes her High Court case against ACC will bring justice to thousands of people who have been shut out of compensation.
Aucklander Shereen Moloney, 66, had a hernia repair procedure with surgical mesh in 2008 and has suffered ‘‘burning’’ pain and loss of feeling in her abdomen ever since.
Moloney, who describes herself as a ‘‘very private, quiet, and reserved’’ person, said she was ‘‘outraged’’ over her treatment by ACC. The experience motivated her to seek justice in the High Court and speak out about her long battle.
The former senior health manager was devastated when, overwhelmed by pain, she was forced to quit her well-paid job in 2009.
Her plan to help her husband to get their finances in order in the decade before retirement vanished in the face of treatment costs and lost income.
Moloney’s claim for ACC treatment injury cover was declined in 2010 on the grounds there was no evidence of a physical injury.
‘‘So it just seemed obvious to me that there had been an injury during the surgery and I had the symptoms of that, which was pain.’’
The mother and grandmother has been fighting the decision ever since.
Last year Moloney took her case to the District Court, and was astounded when the judge sided with ACC despite evidence from a pain physician that she was suffering as a result of damage to her nerves.
Judge Grant Powell concluded there was a lack of evidence to show an abnormal regrowth of Moloney’s nerves had resulted in post-operative pain, and that evidence provided in court did not specify which nerve had been damaged.
Moloney considered giving up, but this week agreed to continue her battle.
‘‘I just feel so outraged by the journey that I’ve had to go on that I feel I need to change that process and hold them to account, not just for me but for other people who experience this as well.’’
Her lawyer, barrister Warren Forster, filed an application for leave to appeal to the High Court.
Forster believes the case could be a ‘‘game-changer’’ in terms of the way the law is interpreted and applied by ACC and the courts.
Under the ACC Act claimants for treatment injury cover have to prove a physical injury occurred during the treatment. Consequential pain following surgery is not covered.
If Moloney succeeds at the High Court it could open the door to ACC cover for hundreds of similar claimants, Forster said. ACC figures show nearly 5000 of the 13,825 treatment injury claims in 2015-2016 were declined.
Nearly threequarters of the declined claims were turned down because there was no injury from the treatment or they did ‘‘not meet the tests to be a treatment injury’’.
Hundreds of patients at pain clinics around the country suffer from post-operative neuropathic pain.
Christchurch pain medicine specialist Dr John Alchin said most of these patients are diagnosed without physical evidence of damage to specific nerves as this is not possible in most cases.
Forster said neuropathic pain should be regarded as a gradual process injury and these should be covered by the act as treatment injuries.
I need to change that process and hold them to account, not just for me but for other people who experience this as well.’ SHEREEN MOLONEY, ABOVE
Reporter James Pasley needed first-hand experience of mowing lawns. And his news director needed his Auckland lawns mowed ...