Firie's widow battles for compensation

A DAVID and Goliath battle is looming for a Tasmanian widow and her two young children as they fight for compensation after their firefighter husband and father died.

The insurer for the Tasmanian Fire Service, Allianz Australia, is disputing the woman's claim that arose from her husband's death from cancer. Tragically the man's death, one month before new laws were introduced protecting firefighters' compensation claims, means the odds are stacked against his family.

The man, who has not been identified, died on September 15 last year from metastatic colorectal cancer.

A month later legislation came into force that meant firefighters suffering any one of 12 listed cancers were presumed to have contracted them in the course of their work.

Colorectal cancer was of one of 12 cancers listed in the legislation.

"The diagnosis of the disease and the tragic death of the worker, occurred prior to amendments to the act ... which had the effect of deeming the disease from which the worker died to have been appropriately caused by his employment as a professional fire fighter," workers' compensation tribunal Chief Commissioner Stephen Carey said.

At a hearing earlier this month the TFS presented a report from Professor Richard Fox, an oncology consultant, stating research data did not establish a causal connection between colorectal cancer and the worker's employment as a firefighter.

United Firefighters Union state secretary Greg Cooper, representing the family, criticised Professor Fox's findings, highlighting the body of international research on a causative link.

Mr Cooper told the tribunal that the Commonwealth and the governments of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia had moved to legislate the causative link based on that research.

" He therefore submits that the weight of evidence was surely to the effect that there was a medically accepted causative link," Mr Carey said.

However, the tribunal's role at that stage was to decide whether Professor Fox's evidence could defeat the family's compensation claim.

The tribunal found in favour of the TFS.

Allianz is also disputing the "status of dependency" of the woman and her children in relation to the firefighter.

The state government declined to comment.


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