ACC Pays $100,000 But Will Clarify Legal Points
ACC to pay $100,000 but will also seek clarification on how law should be interpreted
The Accident Compensation Corporation has confirmed today that it will pay $100,000 lump sum compensation following a recent ruling by the District Court in favour of the estate of the late Ross Lehmann.
However ACC has also decided to seek further judicial clarification of the District Court Judge’s interpretation of the law as applied in the Estate Lehmann case, and will offer to pay the legal costs the Estate will incur in defending the appeal.
ACC is taking this course of action after carefully considering external legal opinions that take a view contrary to that taken by the District Court Judge.
The Corporation is also aware the Government did not originally intend ACC’s governing legislation—the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001—to provide lump sum compensation in the deceased’s circumstances.
ACC and its independent legal advisors believe the law is drafted appropriately and that the District Court Judge may have made an error in law.
In the Estate Lehmann case, ACC told the District Court that the Corporation believed the legislation was clear.
Interpretation of the provisions of the 2001 Act according to standard rules of statutory interpretation meant that Mr Lehmann could not receive lump sum compensation, but he could receive an Independence Allowance.
The argument in the District Court centred on whether the fact that the exposure to asbestos had long ceased by the date the 2001 Act came into force precluded Mr Lehmann’s access to lump sum compensation.
Mr Lehmann’s claim for asbestos-related disease was made in late 2002 and accepted by ACC in early 2003.
ACC’s decision to assess and pay an Independence Allowance and not lump sum compensation was the subject of a review.
ACC’s case at the review hearing was that because the exposure to asbestos had long since ceased by the date the 2001 Act came into force (on 1 April 2002), clause 55(2) of Schedule 1 of the Act applied and precluded an entitlement to lump sum compensation.
The reviewer disagreed and ACC appealed to the District Court.
The District Court held that the words of clause 55(2) are not sufficiently clear to have the effect asserted by the Corporation.
ACC will be seeking
the earliest possible hearing of the appeal.