Administrative law – Workers Compensation Boards – Workers Compensation Appeals Commission
Lee v. Alberta (Appeals Commission for Alberta Workers’ Compensation),  A.J. No. 451, 2011 ABCA 128, Alberta Court of Appeal, May 3, 2011, Sharlow, Layden-Stevenson and Stratas JJ.A.
The respondent, Kim Lee, was injured at work in 1994. Throughout 1994 and 2002 the internal review authority of the Workers Compensation Board, the Claims Service Review Committee (“the CSRC”), and the Appeals Commission made several varying determinations with respect to the respondent’s entitlement to benefits for a psychiatric condition. In June 1999 the Appeals Commission decided of its own motion to reconsider the whole question of responsibility for coverage of the respondent’s psychiatric condition, and on November 21, 2000 the Appeals Commission held the WCB responsible for the respondent’s psychiatric condition from the date of injury to August 24, 1995. On February 6, 2002, without regard to the Appeals Commission decision of November 2000, the CSRC issued a decision that held that the respondent was entitled to benefits beyond December 19, 1997.
In April 2002, the CSRC identified the discrepancy between its decision of February 2002 and the Appeals Commission decision of November 2000 and issued a letter purporting to rescind its decision of February 2002 as a nullity. The respondent appealed the determination to rescind the February 2002 decision. The Court of Queen’s Bench held that the CSRC did not have the jurisdiction to rescind its own decision and remitted the matter back to the Appeals Commission to consider what benefits to award to the respondent in light of the CSRC’s decision of February 2002.
The Court of Appeal overturned the Queen’s Bench decision on the basis that the CSCR has a statutory right of reconsideration under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Moreover, the Court noted that because the CSRC is bound by any decision of the Appeals Commission it cannot render a decision that is contrary to a decision of the Appeals Commission. The contrary decision of a higher tribunal must supersede that of a lower tribunal, and no rational legal system could countenance a result where a lower tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to rescind its own decision in the face of a conflicting decision from higher appellate body.
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