Tribunal stands by Lock and Weston in jurisdiction dispute

Date: March 15, 2019

 

Steele and Comcare [2019] AATA 181.

 

Key Points:

 

Background:

Scott Steele submitted a claim for workers’ compensation in relation to a back injury that occurred on 24 December 2011.  Comcare accepted liability to pay compensation for the injury described as “lumbar sprain”.  Mr Steele received compensation for medical treatment and incapacity to work up to and including the end of 2017.

By letter dated 24 November 2017, Comcare advised Mr Steele of its intention to cease paying compensation.  This was put into effect in a determination dated 3 April 2018, which found that Mr Steele ceased to suffer from the effects of the injury and as such he was no longer entitled to compensation.

Mr Steele sought review of the “cease effects” determination at the Tribunal.  The decision in Lock and Comcare was handed down in July 2018 and in that case the Tribunal was not satisfied that it had jurisdiction to review the decision which was the subject of the application on the basis that it was not satisfied that the reviewable decision before it was a decision made under s62 of the SRC Act. The Tribunal was not satisfied that there had been any relevant claims made under ss16 or 19 of the SRC Act, which relate to medical treatment and incapacity payments.

In light of Lock and Comcare, the Tribunal directed both parties to file written submissions addressing the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to review the decision.

Mr Steele argued that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction as he had no claims pending for medical expenses or incapacity payments on the date the determination was issued.  Mr Steele’s position was that the Respondent had paid all compensation claims made by Mr Steele up to the date of the determination.

Mr Steele had returned to work after his injury until his position was made redundant on 31 August 2016.  From this date up until the cease effects decision was issued, Mr Steele saw his Doctor regularly for review and made claims for medical treatment expenses which the Respondent paid from time to time.

Mr Steele did not make any claims for incapacity payments after the redundancy, but he did make some enquiries with the Respondent as to whether he was entitled to any such payments.  The Respondent argued that these claims for medical treatment and enquiries as to incapacity payments, constituted a valid claim and as such the reasoning in Weston and Cleanaway should be followed to find that the Tribunal had jurisdiction.

 

The Decision:

Deputy President Boyle found that Mr Steele’s case could be distinguished from Lock and Comcare because Mr Steele had an accepted claim for compensation and a series of determinations had followed which accepted liability to pay compensation for medical treatment and incapacity to work, in relation to that accepted claim.  Mr Steele’s claim was considered factually similar to Weston and Comcare in that Mr Steele had made a claim for compensation, the Respondent had issued a determination and that was followed by a reviewable decision.  All of the elements necessary for a reviewable decision under s 64 which says of the SRC Act (identified as missing in Lock and Comcare) were present in Mr Steele’s case.

 

Lessons Learnt:

The Tribunal has no jurisdiction to review a decision when there has been no relevant claim made under section 16 for medical treatment, or section 19 for incapacity payments.  What constitutes a claim for those payments is open to interpretation in the individual circumstances of the case. What we have learnt from this decision is that submitting regularly obtained medical certificates and making enquiries at to entitlement to incapacity payments, may be considered a relevant claim, which affords jurisdiction to the Tribunal.

 

Contact:

 

Naomi Adams
Associate
Direct:  +61 (08) 9265 6015
naomi.adams@hbalegal.com

 

Download PDF:  Steele and Comcare

 

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