The proper approach to statutory interpretation is that the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament. The decision that the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (the “Commission”) made in this case was unreasonable on the basis that Commission, through the decision of the Internal Review Specialist, sought to discover the intention of the Commission, as opposed to the Legislature.

28. September 2010 0

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Workers Compensation Boards – Workers Compensation – Benefits – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Statutory interpretation – Legislation – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter

Warford v. Weir’s Construction Ltd., [2010] N.J. No. 249, 2010 NLTD(G) 130, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court, August 9, 2010, J.P. Adams J.

In 1995, the applicant was injured in a workplace accident and claimed benefits under the [now named] Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act (the “Act”). The Commission commenced a subrogated action in the applicant’s name. The applicant’s employer, the respondent corporation, applied to the Commission for a determination as to whether the action was statute barred. The Commission, through the Internal Review Specialist, found that the action was statute barred. The applicant sought judicial review of that decision.

The standard of review for the Commission’s decision was one of reasonableness. The issue between the parties was not whether the action was statute barred but whether the statutory exception found in section 44.1 of the Act applied. The Court held that the Internal Review Specialist, in reviewing s. 44.1, erred by substituting the intention of the Commission for the intention of the Legislature and as such, the decision was unreliable and therefore unreasonable. The Court also found that the Commission’s decision was unreasonable on other grounds: (a) it made fundamental errors of statutory interpretation, including misinterpretation and ignoring the plain wording of a section and (b) the Court found that the Commission’s decision was unreasonable as it did not consider relevant information such as the circumstances leading up to the accident which injured the applicant and the allegations of negligence contained in the pleadings. The Court sent the matter back to the Commission for another adjudication by a different Internal Review Specialist.

To stay current with the new case law and emerging legal issues in this area, subscribe here.