Woman wins battle with ACC after judge finds hairdryer gave her electric shock
Last updated 14:20, April 15 2016
Deidre Young suffered a neck injury after getting an electric shock from her hairdryer
A woman who suffered an electric shock while using a hairdryer has won a battle with the Accident Compensation Corporation, which had said her injury was all in her head.
Hastings woman Deidre Young was using her hairdryer in November, 2011, when she felt a shap pain shoot through her body. Her hand clenched and she couldn't move.
Her husband Phil heard a "bang" and came to her help and unplugged the hairdryer.
Young lodged a claim for a neck sprain with the corporation, which agreed to provide six weeks entitlement.
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But the pain did not go away. The ACC tribunal reviewed the corporation's decision in October 2012, and upheld the corporation's decision to limit cover to six weeks.
Late last year Young took the matter to court. The corporation's lawyer Lisa Hansen told Wellington District Court that it was unlikely Young had received an electric shock, that even if there had been an electric shock it did not cause a physical injury, and that Young "appears to be suffering predominantly from symptoms of a mental injury".
In a decision released this week Judge Denese Henare noted evidence from an electrical engineer that said a large amount of hair had been sucked into the hairdryer, causing the electric fan to jam.
The electrical engineer, who had 60 years experience, took the hairdryer apart. He said Young had used the hairdryer after coming out of a shower. Her hair, hands and bare feet were damp and this would have increased electrical conductivity. He believed that while Young dried her hair she had made contact with a live exposed electrical part within the hairdryer.
He said that while an electrical current of less than 30 milliamps was not high enough to trip a house's electrical circuit breaker, an electrical shock of just 5-7 milliamps was enough to give a woman a shock great enough to make her unable to let go of an appliance.
As part of the appeal an opinion was obtained from Dr Cynthia Bennett, clinical head of rehabilitation of the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit. Bennett said Young had experienced a low voltage electric shock and that muscle strain would have occurred "at a much greater intensity than normal muscle contraction could produce due to the continuous stimulus for muscle contraction associated with the current's passage".
The corporation obtained an opinion from Dr Alison Drewry, an occupational medicine therapist, who found that earlier tests on Young showed that her symptoms were not from a physical injury but were "consciously generated due to a psychological or psychiatric condition or are consciously exaggerated or feigned, which might also constitute a psychological or psychiatric condition".
Judge Henare found that there had been an electric shock and that it had caused the neck injury and she allowed Young's appeal. The corporation's decision of January 17, 2012 was quashed and the review decision of October, 2012 was set aside. Young will now be assessed again to determine the impact the injury had and whether she is owed any entitlement or cover.