Case Summary: One wrong word in a decision does not mean the decision was wrong
An injured worker, Mr. O’Rourke, sought judicial review of a decision by the respondent, which reduced his worker compensation benefits. The reviewing judge denied his application. The court of appeal then denied his appeal.
Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Workers Compensation Boards – Benefits – Judicial review – Appeals – Standard of review – Reasonableness – Correctness
O’Rourke v. Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission,  N.J. No. 42, 2022 NLCA 14, Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, February 25, 2022, B.G. Welsh, L.R. Hoegg and G.D. Butler JJ.A.
The appellant, Mr. O’Rourke, injured his back in the course of his employment on September 1, 2006. He was lifting furniture as a head housekeeper at a motel.
He received worker compensation benefits until May 26, 2010 when the respondent, Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (“Commission”) decided that he was capable of working six hours per day with accommodations. As a result, his benefits were reduced.
Mr. O’Rourke applied to the second respondent, Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission Review Division for a review decision which upheld the Commission’s decision. Then he sought a reconsideration which also upheld the Commission’s decision. In both of these “Review Decisions”, the Commission’s decision was upheld.
Mr. O’Rourke applied for judicial review of the Review Decisions. The review judge concluded that the Review Decisions were reasonable.
Mr. O’Rourke appealed the review judge’s decision to the court of appeal.
The court of appeal considered three issues.
The first issue was to assess which decision the review judge considered. The judge considered both Review Decisions, but focused on the first review decision. The court of appeal held this was appropriate.
The second issue was whether the review judge erred in defining the appropriate standard or review. The Review Decisions should have considered whether the Commission’s decision was correct. The review judge should have considered whether the Review Decisions were reasonable when they found the Commission’s decision was correct. The court of appeal found that the review judge did define the appropriate standard of review.
The third issue was whether the review judge applied the correct legal principles to the facts of this case. The review judge identified that the first Review Decision contained the word “reasonable”. However, the review judge found the Review Decision had not applied the incorrect standard of review in spite of using that word. The court of appeal held that the review judge applied the correct legal principles.
The court of appeal dismissed the appeal, with no order regarding costs.
This case was digested by Scott J. Marcinkow, 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 Scott Marcinkow at firstname.lastname@example.org.