‘Hug of death’ case in appeal
Four years after she died from a deadly asbestos condition from hugging her father, whether Deanna Trevarthen should have ACC cover is back before the courts.
The Accident Compensation Corporation lost a High Court appeal last year after Justice Jill Mallon said that Trevarthen’s condition, mesothelioma, was caused by inhaling asbestos fibres and if that was an accident then she was covered.
Trevarthen’s father was an electrician and she would hug him when he came home wearing his work clothes, and sometimes she would play at work sites. To get cover under accident compensation law she needed to show the mesothelioma that killed her was a personal injury caused by an accident.
Trevarthen, 45, was among the youngest in New Zealand to die from the aggressive form of cancer directly linked to asbestos.
When she died in 2016 she had claimed ACC for entitlements such as treatment costs, weekly compensation, a lump sum and funeral costs. Her sister-in-law, Angela Calver, took up the fight after Trevarthen’s death.
Yesterday, ACC lawyer Paul Radich, QC, said it was accepted the fibres had entered her body and that it was there but he questioned whether there was evidence it caused damage to the body when it entered. He said that evidence was the missing link that would mean there could be cover as an accident. ‘‘Did the inhalation of the fibre cause damage, in and of itself, or was it the fact there was no damage and then a process of some sort?’’
Calver’s lawyer, Beatrix Woodhouse, said she did not see that the High Court ruling would affect anyone other than someone suffering from mesothelioma. She said that just because the asbestos related disease could be latent, did not mean it did not exist at the point in time the ACC cover would be affected.