The Supreme Court set aside a decision of the Appeal Panel of the Personal Injury Commission upholding a medical assessment that Mr Wright suffered from a psychological injury involving a whole person impairment of 19% for the purposes of his worker's compensation claim. This article provides a case summary of State of New South Wales v Wright  NSWSC 757.
Mr Wright was employed by the State of New South Wales as a courier driver from August 2012 until approximately April 2019. He claimed that during his employment he was subjected to bullying and harassment by his manager and other colleagues which resulted in a psychological injury which caused him to be unable to work.
Mr Wright made a claim for weekly payments of compensation and medical expenses in the Workers Compensation Commission for the period 6 December 2018 to 7 November 2019. By consent the Commission made an award in favour of Mr Wright with respect to conduct up to 5 December 2018, but then made an award in favour of the employer with respect to conduct after that date, meaning the State of New South Wales was not liable for any injury occurring after that date.
Mr Wright then filed a second application in the Personal Injury Commission claiming a lump sum compensation payment. To be eligible for a lump sum benefit, the worker must have suffered not less than 15% whole person impairment. The medical assessor determined that Mr Wright sustained 19% whole person impairment and was therefore entitled to a lump sum payment.
The State of New South Wales argued that the medical assessor had considered conduct after 5 December 2018 as aggravating Mr Wright's condition, which was inconsistent with the earlier award. The State of New South Wales unsuccessfully appealed that decision to the Appeal Panel of the Commission. It then sought judicial review of the decision of the Panel.
The issue before the Court was whether the Appeal Panel erred in not recognising that the medical assessor had failed to confine the whole person impairment inquiry to conduct of the employer up to 5 December 2018.
Decision on Appeal
Basten AJ found that Mr Wright's evidence that his existing psychological condition was aggravated by work-related conduct in 2019 was accepted by the medical assessor and in relying on that aggravation the assessor ignored the limitation on the terms of the dispute that he was resolving.
Basten AJ found that the Appeal Panel erred in failing to identify that the medical assessor went beyond his jurisdiction by taking into account conduct that he was required not to consider. The State of New South Wales' claim for judicial review was upheld and the claim was sent back to the Commission to be re-assessed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.