Simple hugs between a father and a daughter are contributed to the cancer that killed Deamma Trevarthen. Trevarthen, died in 2016, aged 45, was one of the youngest in New Zealand to die from mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure. The legal firm taking the case, John Miller Law, aims to pursue the claim as an accident relating to the inhalation of a foreign object, rather than the established route of a work-related accident. The case has the potential to set a legal precedent, possibly allowing hundreds of other mesothelioma sufferers to lodge a claim. Beatrix Woodhouse, the lawyer representing the family, said ACC’s appointment of a Queens Counsel to handle it was unusual at a district court level, and was probably an attempt to “stamp out” the case from the outset. The case is scheduled to begin in Wellington District Court in September.
In the aftermath of February 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, Mr Toomey, a self employed builder, courageously drove to the city centre to see whether he could be of any assistance. The Fire Service called upon his building expertise to help them in enter the PGC building and assist in the rescue of those who were trapped and seriously injured. Sometime after these disturbing events, Mr Toomey was diagnosed with PTSD, however ACC declined to cover his mental injury. In the District Court hearing, Ms Newman successfully argued that Mr Toomey was not working as a volunteer, but that he was at work because he was under the direction of the Fire Service, and although he was not being paid, he was self-employed, and a self-employed person is not paid in each and every situation even though they are working. The Court agreed, finding that there should not be a disincentive for someone like Mr Toomey not to co-operate with the Fire Service or the Police during emergencies where their skills were called upon. ACC will now cover his injury as a work related accident.
In 2009, MC was into his second tour of Afghanistan when his base was subjected to fatal rocket attacks. Amongst other atrocities, he also witnessed the explosion of a military helicopter carrying 16 people. After he returned home, he was diagnosed with PTSD and Depression. ACC and the NZDF (as an ACC accredited employer) declined mental injury cover for our client on the grounds that his PTSD was due to a series of events, not a single event, and that the legislation did not cover a gradual process injury of this type. We argued that an event could encompass a series of discrete events that were all contributory, and that his tour of duty of Afghanistan could be considered an event in itself. The judge questioned the interpretation, agreeing with JML that being on duty on a hostile and dangerous environment did amount to a single incident and that he was entitled to cover because his Afghanistan tour caused him mental injury.