Recent Compensation Case
There was a recent decision in the New South Wales Court of Appeal involving an application by an injured claimant to set out aside a decision of Supreme Court Judge, Mr Justice Fagan, to refuse the injured person’s application to seek judicial review of a decision by the Proper Officer of the Medical Assessment Service. The case was Dominice –v- Allianz Australia Insurance Limited  NSWCA 171.
The injured claimant suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident in July 2013. In order to obtain compensation for non-economic-loss (bodily injury) it is necessary to demonstrate a degree of permanent impairment greater than 10%. The claimant was initially assessed as having a whole person impairment of 18%. The CTP insurer, Allianz, sought a review of that determination.
The review application was determined by The Proper Officer of the Medical Assessment Service of the Motor Accidents Authority. The Proper Officer is required to refer the application to a review panel of medical assessors but only if the Proper Officer “satisfied there was reasonable cause to suspect that the Medical Assessor was incorrect in a material respect.”
The Proper Officer decided to refer the application by the CTP insurer to a review panel. The injured claimant instructed her lawyers to challenge that referral decision by way judicial review pursuant to Section 69 of the Supreme Court Act 1970 [NSW].
The claimant’s application was dismissed by His Honour, Mr Justice Fagan in the Supreme Court on 31 August 2016.
Justice Basten stated at paragraph 4 “no error has been identified in the judgment of the primary judge, Fagan J. If the primary judge erred in any respect, it was according too much credence to the complaints of the Appellant. In fact, the appellant’s case was based on four inter-related assumptions which were inadequately explored.”
Furthermore, it is important to note what Justice Basten also stated in his judgment:-
“Where the Proper Officer refuses to grant a review on the basis of a legal misunderstanding as to the scope of his or her powers, there may well be grounds for judicial review of that decision. Its effect may be to deny a claimant an opportunity to obtain damages for non-economic loss.
However, when the error is said to have resulted in the failure of the Proper Officer to refuse a referral, the legal consequences are quite different. If the basis of her suspicion had been misconceived, one would expect that misconception to be identified by the review panel, which would dismiss the application and confirm the original certificate of assessment. A judge faced with a judicial review application in such circumstances, at least were the bona fides of the Proper Officer was not in question, would have strong reasons for rejecting the application on discretionary grounds.”
This case is important for legal practitioners to consider when challenging a Proper Officer’s decision to refer an assessment to a review panel. In view of what has been stated above by Mr Justice Basten, a solicitor acting for a claimant in such circumstances would need very good reasons to bring application for judicial review to set aside the decision of the Proper Officer to send the matter for review.
It would be more prudent to allow the matter to proceed to the review panel and depending on the outcome of their decision, decide whether or not an application for judicial review is warranted.
At BPC, we are able to assist our clients in regard to any application for judicial review and will ensure any application to the Supreme Court has good prospects for success.