The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal of the Worker’s Compensation Board and restored its decision to compensate an injured worker based on calculations made under a new policy implemented under the Workers’ Compensation Act

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Workers Compensation Boards – Workers Compensation – Benefits – Statutory provisions – Policies – Validity and application of policies and guidelines – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter

Mellor v. Saskatchewan (Workers’ Compensation Board), [2012] S.J. No. 57, 2012 SKCA 10, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, February 9, 2012, W.J. Vancise, R.K. Ottenbreit and N.W. Caldwell JJ.A.

The Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) appealed a judicial review of its decision, which had found that the WCB had incorrectly interpreted its governing statute and had quashed its decision, which had originally denied an appeal brought by the Respondent, Bryan Mellor.

The issues on appeal were whether the chamber judge erred in determining the applicable standard of judicial review and whether, on the applicable standard of review, the chamber judge erred in quashing the WCB’s decision to deny Mr. Mellor’s appeal.

Mr. Mellor had been receiving replacement benefits equal to 75% of his loss of earnings since an injury at work in 1981, pursuant to s.68(1) of the Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”). Loss of Earnings calculations for gross earnings workers such as Mr. Mellor were made on the basis of the maximum wage rate under s.38 of the WCA. In 2007, the WCB adopted an internal policy, the effect of which was to limit the maximum wage rate for all Gross Earnings Workers to $55,000 (the “Even-Footing Policy”). Mr. Mellor appealed from the effect of the Even-Footing Policy, which was denied by the WCB.

The Court held that, as the question before the WCB on appeal related to the interpretation and application of the WCA and closely-connected legal rules, it fell squarely within the WCB’s expertise and did not raise issues of general legal importance. The appropriate standard of review was held to be reasonableness and the chamber judge was held to have erred by applying a standard of correctness.

In re-examining the reasonableness of the WCB’s decision, the Court held that the Even-Footing Policy was a valid exercise of the WCB’s authority and filled identified legislative gaps which would have otherwise given rise to inequity. Additionally, the WCB’s decision fell squarely within the range of possible and acceptable outcomes such that a reviewing court’s intervention would be inappropriate.

The appeal was allowed and the judgment of the chamber judge was set aside. As the matter raised untested issues which affected all injured workers, no order as to costs was made.

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