Administrative law – Administrative tribunals – Reasons when in effect – Failure to provide signatures on reasons – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Jurisdiction
Mattina v. Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission,  N.B.J. No. 22, New Brunswick Court of Appeal, January 27, 2005, Ryan, Daigle and Robertson JJ.A.
A hearing before the Appeals Tribunal established under the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission Act, L.N.B. 1994, c.W-14, was conducted on January 27, 2004. Immediately following the hearing of an appeal, each of the three panel members were obliged to sign a document entitled “Decision”. That “decision” provided a brief rationale for disposing of an appeal in a particular manner. On January 27, two panel members indicated their view that the appeal should be allowed in part. A third member checked off the box indicating his disagreement. The chair of the panel subsequently undertook the task of writing the decision and, upon further reflection, he formed the opinion that the appeal should be dismissed. The panel members reconvened and as a result of their deliberations, another “decision” was signed on April 5, 2004. That document indicated that the appeal was to be dismissed, with one member dissenting. Neither the April 5 decision nor the January 27 decision were distributed to the parties. In a decision dated April 8, 2004, the Appeals Tribunal provided both the Appellant and the Respondent with reasons for the Appeals Tribunal’s decision to reject the appeal. Only the vice chairperson who chaired the panel signed the decision and there was no indication that one of the panel members had dissented. The Appellant subsequently learned of the January 27 and April 5 “decisions”.
The court held that the Appeals Tribunal did not exceed its jurisdiction in issuing a decision on April 8, 2004 that did not accord with its decision of January 27, 2004. The so-called decision of January 27 was simply an internal document that signified the preliminary positions of each of the panel members. It did not, nor was it intended to, contain an analysis of the evidence, issues or positions of the parties. The fact that the Appeals Tribunal signed a document on January 27 entitled “Decision” did not mean that the decision was issued on that date. A decision did not issue until such time as the parties were informed in writing of the Tribunal’s ruling and its underlying reasons.
The written decision of the Appeals Tribunal of April 8, 2004 did not indicate that one of the panel members was in dissent. The court held that a claimant has the right to know whether a panel decision was unanimous before deciding whether to appeal. The court therefore held that the fairness duty that exists in administrative law demanded that all decisions issued by a panel of the Appeals Tribunal be signed by all three panel members who heard the appeal.
The court held that there was no basis for interference with the merits of the panel’s ruling. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
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