The Applicant both appealed and applied for judicial review of a decision of the Appeals Commission of the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (the “AC”) upholding a decision of the Claims Services Review Committee (the “CSRC”) which denied the Applicant further benefits for a work related injury. The appeal was dismissed, and a judicial review of the decision of the AC was denied on the basis that even though the AC had erred in holding that it could not review jurisdictional issues regarding the CSRC, the de novo hearing before the AC was an adequate alternative remedy to sending the matter back to the CSRC for a rehearing and the decision of the AC that the Applicant was not entitled to further benefits was reasonable.

27. September 2005 0

Administrative law – Workers compensation – Benefits – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Workers Compensation Boards – Appeals – Jurisdiction to hear – Judicial review – Judicial review application – Natural justice – Remedies – Alternative remedies

Martinson v. Alberta (Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission), [2005] A.J. No. 896, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, July 15, 2005, Macklin J.

The Applicant had been injured in a work related accident on January 12, 1997. The Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) accepted her claim and paid temporary total disability (“TTD”) benefits until January 26, 2001. On that date, the WCB determined that the Applicant was employable at a full‑time sedentary level and therefore changed the benefits payable to the Applicant so as to only compensate her for the difference between her pre-accident earnings and her post January 26, 2001 potential.

The Applicant appealed the denial of TTD benefits to the CSRC. The CSRC held that while the Applicant continued to have right shoulder abnormalities, these symptoms were not related to the work related accident of January 1997 and  the Applicant was not entitled to any disability benefits at all.

The Applicant appealed the CSRC decision to the AC. She argued that the CSRC had no jurisdiction to deal with the question of whether the injury was compensable since that was not an issue before it and that she was denied a natural justice because she was not permitted to address that issue in the hearing.

The AC concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to review and determine matters regarding the jurisdiction and processes of the CSRC. However, it also considered the evidence and upheld the CSRC decision that the Applicant was not entitled to any further disability benefits.

The Applicant then appealed the AC decision regarding the jurisdiction of the CSRC and whether it breached the Applicant’s rights of a natural justice and sought judicial review of the AC’s decision regarding the causal relationship between the Applicant’s present condition and the compensable accident and whether she was totally disabled after January 26, 2001.

The court held that the AC was in error in holding that it did not have jurisdiction to review and determine matters regarding the jurisdiction and processes of the CSRC. The wording of the legislation was very broad and allowed the AC to do so.

The court then held that the CSRC had exceeded its jurisdiction when it considered a question not remitted to it. The variation imposed by the CSRC related to the issue of liability for the injury, whereas the issue, as understood by the parties, was not whether the Applicant was entitled to compensation but whether the decision of the WCB to reduce the amount of compensation was correct. While the CSRC did have a broad jurisdiction to vary a decision, that jurisdiction existed only within the context of the issues before it and after the interested parties had an opportunity to make representations on those issues.

Having found that the AC erred in failing to determine the jurisdiction of the CSRC, the court held that the Applicant’s right of appeal and her exercise of that right to have a de novo hearing before the AC provided her with an adequate alternative remedy to the breach by the CSRC of the rules of natural justice.

The court then held that the findings by the AC that there was a “diminishing relationship between the worker’s ongoing symptoms and the work accident” and that there was subsequently an end point of the relationship between the ongoing symptoms and the compensable accident were reasonable findings based on the information and evidence before it. The AC was in as good a position as the court to review the WCB file and, particularly, all of the evidence from the health care specialists in making its findings and rendering its decision.

The appeal by the Applicant was dismissed and a judicial review of the decision of the AC was denied.

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