The Dominion Post
ACC appeals ‘hug of death’ ruling
Angela Calver says her sister-inlaw, Deanna Trevarthen, was the type of person who would get ‘‘really angry’’ about injustice and fairness.
She says Trevarthen, who died in 2016, would be ‘‘absolutely furious’’ at an ACC appeal of a High Court ruling that found ACC was liable for Trevarthen’s secondhand exposure to asbestos.
She had likely been exposed through hugging her electrician father as a child after he came home from work – the so-called hug of death – and from playing on his work sites.
ACC handles compensation claims for the effects of asbestos exposure in New Zealand but claimants must have been exposed at work, meaning that cases such as Trevarthen’s were not covered.
Calver advocated on behalf of her sister-in-law, who died from mesothelioma – an aggressive form of cancer directly linked to asbestos.
Phillip Trevarthen died of a brain aneurism when daughter Deanna was 10.
Calver said Justice Jill Mellon ‘‘did a great job’’ with her High Court ruling, made in July. ‘‘She covered off all aspects. I was hoping we’d be done.’’
Calver was ‘‘really glad’’ for the existence of ACC but said the ACC Act needed changing.
‘‘Labour recognised that
before the election. They put it in their campaign documents.’’
She had been in touch with ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, receiving a ‘‘polite response’’ that said the change was ‘‘not a priority’’.
Calver felt ‘‘fobbed off’’, saying ‘‘they’re not going to keep their promise’’.
Lees-Galloway said the first priority was that people had access to treatment. Pemetrexed, for mesothelioma, was funded by Pharmac.
‘‘There are many crossovers
between ACC, health and welfare. The Government has decided not to progress any significant reviews of ACC settings while we conduct major reviews into the welfare and health systems.’’ That work was ‘‘ongoing’’. A spokesman for ACC confirmed it was seeking to appeal against the decision.
He said although ACC had ‘‘a great deal of sympathy for the late Ms Trevarthen and her family’’, the High Court decision raised significant questions over where Parliament intended the boundaries of ACC cover for disease to lie.
‘‘For this reason ACC, as the responsible administrator of the ACC scheme, believes it’s appropriate to ask the High Court for leave to ask these questions of the Court of Appeal.’’
Deanna Trevarthen had claimed ACC for a range of entitlements, such as treatment costs, weekly compensation, a lump sum and funeral costs.
Trevarthen contested ACC rulings about her entitlement and Calver continued her sister-inlaw’s fight after she died.
Last month, Calver’s lawyer, Beatrix Woodhouse, said ACC had previously only accepted cover for mesothelioma that arose from primary exposure in a work setting.
Deanna Trevarthen, left, would have been ‘‘absolutely furious’’. Angela Calver, sister-in-law