Federal Court overturns tribunal decision on workers' comp

The case involved a former armoured security guard who sustained a knee injury

Federal Court overturns tribunal decision on workers' comp

The Federal Court addressed an appeal related to workers' compensation involving a former armoured security guard who sustained a knee injury while employed by Chubb Security Services.

This injury was acknowledged and compensated under the NSW WorkCover scheme. The security guard, Craig Higgerson, later transitioned to Prosegur Australia Pty Ltd, which rejected his subsequent compensation claims for a 2019 knee injury, attributing the condition to the 2002 injury.

Higgerson sought a review of Prosegur’s decisions, leading to an Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling in his favour, stating that the 2019 incident exacerbated the original 2002 injury. Prosegur appealed this decision.

Higgerson's claims centred around compensation for knee pain linked to the 2002 injury and further medical consultations following a 2019 incident, which he argued worsened his condition. Despite various treatments and consultations, Prosegur maintained that Higgerson's ongoing knee issues were directly related to the initial 2002 injury, rejecting additional compensation claims.

The tribunal sided with Higgerson, concluding that the 2019 incident aggravated the previous injury. However, upon appeal, the Federal Court scrutinised this decision, particularly examining the legal interpretation of "injury" and "aggravation" under the Safety, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 1988. The court emphasised the need for clear evidence of an injury's aggravation and critiqued the tribunal's process and rationale for its findings.

The case delved into the definitions of "injury" and "disease" within workers' compensation, underscoring the requirement for a significant physiological change to substantiate a claim of injury or aggravation. Expert medical opinions presented to the tribunal were pivotal, with specialists unanimously agreeing that Higgerson's knee condition was primarily osteoarthritis stemming from the 2002 incident, showing minimal evidence of significant change due to the 2019 event.

The Federal Court identified several legal errors in the tribunal's decision-making process, including misconstruction of the SRC Act, inadequate reasoning, and procedural fairness concerns. The court ultimately set aside the tribunal's decision and affirmed Prosegur's original determination to deny further compensation.

 

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