Family vows to carry on battle with ACC over compo for woman whose cancer came from hugging father

A relative of a woman who died from a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos as a child is telling the Accident Compensation Corporation to "fix the inequity" that meant she was refused compensation. 

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The High Court has ruled the woman should have been compensated, but the agency is appealing the Deanna Trevarthen decision. Source: Seven Sharp

As kids do, Deanna Trevarthen used to hug her dad, an electrician, when he got home from work, TVNZ1's Seven Sharp reported. 

But at age 45, Ms Trevarthen was dead, the victim of asbestos fibres on her father's work clothes. The inhaled fibres had lay dormant in her right lung until causing the cancer mesothelioma. 

Ms Trevarthen's sister-in-law, Angela Calver, said it was a "quick, cruel killer" that ravaged Deanna in 18 months.

Ms Trevarthen's written recollections of her childhood also pointed to potential exposure to asbestos while on work sites with her dad, as he carried out electrical installations.

"I vividly remember breaking particle boards, pipes and much more while playing to build things with while on site with Dad," she wrote.

Ms Calver promised before Deanna's death in late 2016 to see through the family's campaign for ACC to extend compensation beyond those who are exposed to asbestos in the course of their work, to others who suffer secondary exposure.

The family wants this "second-hand infection" recognised as an injury and therefore eligible for compensation.

"It isn't going to bankrupt them. This was a no-fault situation," Ms Calver said.

The family's fight has taken them from an independent review of ACC's initial refusal to cover Ms Trevarthen, to a hearing in the District Court, and then last month success in the High Court 

"The High Court believes that the first injury was when she inhaled the asbestos, and the consequential injury was the mesothelioma. Therefore she should have been covered," Ms Calver said.

But ACC has indicated it intends to take the matter to the Court of Appeal.

"We were really hopeful that ACC would be pragmatic and realistic about it. But no," Ms Calver said.

Asked her message to ACC, she said: "I think it's time to be logical and just and fix the inequity."

ACC said in a statement they have a great deal of sympathy for the late Ms Trevarthen and her family.

"But the High Court decision raises significant questions over where Parliament intended the boundaries of ACC cover for disease to lie," the corporation said.

"For this reason, ACC, as the responsible administrator of the ACC scheme, believes it is appropriate to ask the High Court for leave to ask the questions of the Court of Appeal."