A Northland woman has won her battle for ACC cover for asbestos-related cancer — three years after her death at the age of 45.

Deanna Trevarthen, who lived in Kerikeri and was employed as an advertising sales rep for the Northland Age for several years from 2006, developed a rare and aggressive form of cancer called mesothelioma caused by inhaling asbestos.

Trevarthen believed she had been exposed to the carcinogenic fibres as child when she hugged her electrician father as he came home in his work overalls. She sometimes also played at his work sites.

Before her death in 2016 Trevarthen sought cover from the Accident Compensation Corporation for treatment costs, weekly compensation, a lump sum and funeral costs.

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ACC, however, rejected her claim, saying her illness had to be a result of asbestos exposure through her employment.

She could have been entitled to cover if her mesothelioma was "a personal injury caused by an accident" but that would require her to identify a specific occasion of asbestos inhalation which had caused the disease, ACC said.

Deanna Trevarthen undergoing chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma in 2015. Photo / supplied
Deanna Trevarthen undergoing chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma in 2015. Photo / supplied

Trevarthen's claim was continued after her death by her sister Angela Calver, executor of her estate.

ACC's decision was upheld by the Wellington District Court last year but, in a decision released this week, the High Court at Wellington found in Trevarthen's favour.

Justice Jill Mallon ruled it was not necessary for Trevarthen to identify the specific occasion of asbestos inhalation which caused her mesothelioma for it to qualify as an accident.

That was because mesothelioma was triggered only if a sufficient dose of asbestos had been inhaled. That dose could come from a single occasion or several, Justice Mallon said.

Deanna Trevarthen with her partner Greg Robertson in 2016. Photo / Nick Reed
Deanna Trevarthen with her partner Greg Robertson in 2016. Photo / Nick Reed

Trevarthen worked as a cosmetics sales rep after leaving the Age. Later she moved to Auckland's North Shore with her partner Greg Robertson, a former Bay Report and Northland Age journalist from Hihi in Doubtless Bay.

She died on December 5, 2016, one of New Zealand's youngest known victims of mesothelioma.