April 20 2014, updated 4:04pm

Berrymans win 14-year court battle

Last updated 19:43 01/05/2008

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The Berrymans and their lawyer, Dr Rob Moodie, have won their 14-year battle with the New Zealand Army over responsibility for the death of beekeeper Kenneth John Richards in a 1994 bridge collapse.

In a judgement, Justice Jill Mallon quashed the 1997 finding by Taumarunui coroner Tim Scott that responsibility "must largely lie" with former King Country farmers Keith and Margaret Berryman.

Dr Moodie was travelling to Wanganui this afternoon to give the news to the Berrymans.

The army built the swingbridge leading to the Berrymans' farm in 1986, and it collapsed eight years later when Mr Richards tried to cross it in his honey-laden utility, plunging 30m to his death in a gorge of the Retaruke River.

Justice Mallon also struck out Mr Scott's finding that there was no fault in the way the army built the bridge.

She recommended the parties now meet to settle the $4.5m damages the Berrymans are claiming in a misfeasance suit set down for hearing in June.

The judgement arises from the judicial review Justice Mallon heard last September against the army for telling the coroner that "there was nothing in the entire construction of the bridge that contributed to the accident," even though its own internal court of inquiry had earlier concluded that a litany of design and construction mistakes had caused it.

The September hearing was also a judicial review of then Solicitor-General Terence Arnold's four refusals to order a new inquest.  

- NZPA

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