Court upholds decision of the WCAT dismissing appeal for the failure to file claim application within the one-year limitation period

Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Workers Compensation Boards – Limitation of actions – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Bias – Legislative compliance – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness – Evidence – Fresh evidence – Admissibility

Aghili v. British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal), [2022] B.C.J. No. 778, 2022 BCSC 717, British Columbia Supreme Court, May 4, 2022, D. MacDonald J.

On May 1, 2019, the petitioner was allegedly injured while lifting heavy tubing at work.  The Workers’ Compensation Act requires an application for compensation to be commenced within one year of the date of the injury.  The petitioner filed a claim application on June 25, 2020.  After being informed that his application was late, the petitioner submitted a letter explaining that he was not able to meet the one year deadline because he understood that the cause of the injury had to be known.  The petitioner also claimed that he was unfamiliar with the application process and the one-year time limit.

On August 7, 2020, the Workers’ Compensation Board issued a decision denying the application on the ground that the petitioner’s explanation did not establish a special circumstance that precluded him from applying within the limitation period.

The petitioner appealed the Board’s decision to the Board’s Review Division.  The Review Division upheld the Board’s decision. The petitioner appealed the Review Decision’s disposition to WCAT.  On July 28, 2021, WCAT dismissed the petitioner’s appeal finding that there were no special circumstances that precluded the petitioner from filing a claim application within one year of his injury.

The Court applied a standard of review of patent unreasonableness.  The petitioner alleged that he had an expectation that a panel would consist of more than one person.  The Court found that the word “panel” was not a clear and unambiguous representation to him and therefore, the doctrine of legitimate expectation did not arise.  The Court rejected the petitioner’s argument that there was bias between the Workers’ Advisers Office, which is independent from the Board and WCAT.

The Court also held that it was not patently unreasonable for the vice chair not to exercise her discretion to retain an independent health professional to assess the petitioner.  The Court observed that the vice chair’s decision was discretionary and an issue that was not properly before the decision-maker.  Therefore, the Court declined to address an issue arising for the first time on judicial review.

With respect to the late claim application, the Court declined to interfere with WCAT’s decision.  The Court found that WCAT had evidence to support its decision and it was not patently unreasonable for WCAT to find that the petitioner did not have special circumstances that prevented him from filing his claim application before the expiration of the one-year limitation period.  The Court held that WCAT’s decision addressed the petitioner’s issues and appropriately considered the reasons for his purported delay.  The petition was dismissed. WCAT did not seek its costs.

This case was digested by Jackson C. Doyle, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Administrative Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Administrative Law Newsletter.  If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Jackson C. Doyle at jdoyle@harpergrey.com.

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