KIWI COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF SAMOAN FAMILY

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Court finds power utility responsible for woman’s death

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Times, Sept. 25, 2008) - A Samoan family that had taken a New Zealand electricity company to court for the death of their mother 17 months ago was found in favour by the Auckland Coroner's Court.

The Muliaga family took the state-owned Mercury Energy company to court for the death of their mother, Folole Muliaga, who died when electricity to their home was cut, leaving her unable to use her home oxygen machine.

The Muliaga family had moved to New Zealand from Samoa in search of a better life, as is the case with many in the region who leave their island homes to search for better opportunities in the more developed nations. They had been living in New Zealand for about seven years.

Mrs. Muliaga was terminally ill with a heart problem and was using the electrically powered oxygen machine when power to their home was disconnected due to an overdue electricity bill, which was reported to be about $168. Mrs. Muliaga died within 3 hours after the electricity was cut.

The Mercury Energy Company, for their part, denied that the power cut was the cause of death and instead stated that it was due to Mrs. Muliaga's obesity.

However, according to the Samoa Observer, the Auckland Coroner's Court 'has ruled that the cause of Folole's death was the fault of the electricity supplier Mercury Energy's decision to disconnect the electricity that powered her oxygen machine'.

Family lawyer, Mrs Olinda Woodroffe, reported to the Samoa Observer that "the contributing factor to her death on the day that she died was because her oxygen machine couldn't supply her oxygen for three hours, since the electricity to the Muliaga's household was disconnected".

The family and their lawyer are now awaiting compensation from the New Zealand Commissioner of Electricity and Gas.

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