The Alberta Court of Appeal held that the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission (“WCA”) was patently unreasonable in its finding as to when a worker’s accident ceased to be the cause of the worker’s injury. Workers’ Compensation Policy ADJ-39 is properly interpreted as to only require a disability to be the result of an emotional reaction, not that the injury be an emotional reaction. WCA’s analysis was unreasonable because it limited coverage by relying on factors that the Policy requires to be used to extend coverage.

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Workers Compensation Boards – Workers compensation – Psychological injury – employment related – Test – Benefits – Judicial review – Evidence – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Correctness

Shuchuk v. Alberta (Workers’ Compensation Board, Appeals Commission), [2007] A.J. No. 725, Alberta Court of Appeal, July 10, 2007, E. McFadyen, K. Ritter and P. Martin JJ.A.

A worker (the “Worker”) was employed by the Workers’ Compensation Board. In April of 1992, and in the course of his employment, the Worker was injured in a motor vehicle accident. The Worker suffered soft tissue injuries and later experienced psychological/psychiatric difficulties. Although the WCA initially granted coverage, it later found, on the basis of a medical legal report, that the worker’s psychological/psychiatric difficulties were primarily caused by other factors. The WCA selected December 31, 1996 as the date of the termination of benefits because it believed on that date, the causative relationship between the injury and the accident was “substantially diminished”.

The Court of Appeal upheld the chambers judge’s decision that the WCA’s decision was irrational and patently unreasonable. The Court found the WCA contradicted a previous determination that the worker had sustained a mild traumatic brain injury. The WCA acknowledged that it was almost impossible to identify the date the injury would have been terminated and selected December 31, 1996 arbitrarily, without explaining the significance. The Court held that absent clear, legislative direction to the contrary, the Workers’ Compensation scheme should, at a minimum, provide compensation to those situations that would result in compensation under traditional tort law.

The Court remitted the matter back to the WCA to reconsider both whether the worker’s condition resulted from any factor enumerated in the Policy and whether those factors played any role in the worker’s ongoing condition.

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