BARTIER PERRY says a recent appeal over a workers compensation claim it acted in has restored certainty for employers and workers.
The law firm acted for Campbelltown City Council, in NSW, in its dispute with Margaret Theresa Vegan and WorkCover NSW over an approved medical specialist’s (AMS) report.
Bartier Perry partner, Mick Franco said the NSW Court of Appeal decision has “established a clearer framework and boundaries around the appeal process consistent with the aims of the legislation to limit such appeals and … disputed section 66 impairment entitlements determined by reference to AMS findings so far as possible”.
Since an initial ruling by the NSW Workers’ Compensation Commission, according to Franco, there had been uncertainty for both workers and employers in NSW.
“AMS appeals became a lottery with the potential for meritorious appeals to fail and weak appeals to succeed because appeal panels were not obliged to justify their decisions by reference to the statutory appeal grounds,” he said.
The NSW Court of Appeal sent the decision back to the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC), after its appeal panel increased percentage assessments for injuries to Mrs Vegan’s back, neck and right arm sustained at a Campbelltown Council childcare centre in 2001.
In upholding Campbelltown Council’s appeal, the Court of Appeal, as well as quashing the decisions of the WCC appeal panel, also overturned an earlier decision by the NSW Supreme Court. In that decision, Justice Wood dismissed the Council’s challenge to the WCC appeal panel, arguing failure to give reasons and error of law on the part of the WCC appeal panel. Justice Wood held appeal panels are not obliged by legislation to give reasons for altering the certificate of an AMS.
Franco said the Court of Appeal agreed the legislation did not contain an express obligation for appeal panel’s to give reasons for administrative decisions, but that in this case the decision of the appeal panel was an administrative decision of a judicial nature which affected the operations of the WCC and as such there is an implied obligation to give reasons.
The new WCC appeal panel dismissed Mrs Vegan’s appeal, finding no error on the part of the AMS (other than a typographical error), which was the Council’s original contention.