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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

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Accident Compensation Cases

TAYLOR v ACCIDENT COMPENSATION COMMISSION (ACAA, 17/03/89)

Judgment Text

DECISION 
Judge W M Willis
On 3 September 1988 a claim for repetitive strain injury was lodged. It is clear that the condition had existed for some time prior to the claim being lodged and in this respect I refer to the first medical certificate dated 2 September 1985 which reports that the appellant was first seen by Dr Deed on 9 February 1984. The matter was referred to Dr Deed who on 22 October 1985 replied: 
“1
Present condition - 
still has tenosynovitis of (R) wrist following repetitive injury at work. She has to wear a support for her (R) wrist while working and is still having considerable pain and also drops things held by this hand. (ie) she has loss of power. She had to leave her previous job data processing and is now working as a typist/clerk. 
2
The injury was caused by her job as a data processor. There is some improvement working as a typist/clerk but this still causes her considerable discomfort. 
3
Wearing a brace and doing as little typing as possible. Therapy has been of very little help and the prognosis is for no improvement in the near future. ”
The claim was accepted but I can find no reference to the appellant having been in receipt of earnings related compensation. She had changed the nature of her work so that it is possible that she was at no time unemployed. There was some physiotherapy but in due course information was sought from Mr R O Nicol regarding assessments under ss 78 and 79. Mr Nicol replied on 15 November 1986 and after giving a history gave his opinion thus: 
“a)
General: 
You ask for comment under the following headings:- 
1)
‘Diagnosis’: The diagnosis of this patient's condition is unknown to me. 
2)
‘Prognosis’: The patient's prognosis must be guarded as she tells me that her situation has not improved since February 1984, as the cause of her condition is unknown to me it is difficult to be certain as to her prognosis. 
3)
‘Treatment Given’: This has been fully detailed in the report above. I would not be able to treat her condition as I do not know the cause of it. 
4)
‘Work restrictions if any’: This patient is managing to work in the North Shore Hospital x-ray dept. and should be encouraged to continue to do so. It would be my opinion that it would be extremely deterimental for this patient to stop working. 
In addition you ask for assessments under Sections 78 and 79. 
Because of the length of time that has elapsed since her injury the patient's condition can be said to have stabilised, it is impossible to be certain as to what is going to happen in the future. ”
Treatment consisted of acupuncture and therapy. No certificate was given under s 78. 
An assessment was made with nil awards under each section. An appeal was lodged and the matter was referred to Mr Cullen who had apparently seen the appellant in March 1985 after reference from Dr Deed. Mr Cullen said: 
“Thank you for your letter regarding this young lady. I saw this lady on the 5th March 1985. She was referred to me by Dr Deed. She appeared at that time to have a tenosynovitis of the tendons on the back of the wrist. It was noted at that time that the symptoms were settling since she had changed her job from a data processor to an alternative job at the North Shore Hospital. Clinical examination of the wrist on the 5th March was normal and therefore I did not pursue any further investigations and did not arrange to see her again. ”
A report was also sought from Mr David Caughey who reported on 22 December 1987. In concluding his report Mr Caughey said: 
“I thought this patient to be genuine and the history to be compatible with a diagnosis of so called repetitive strain injury although I am surprised she was able to continue to work for so long. I am also surprised that she has not improved over the last two years although certainly such a slow response to a change in occupation is recorded. I believe she is motivated to return to work. 
Chronologically the complaint is related to her activities in 1983. 
To answer your specific questions I do not understand the true nature of this condition and I can think of no other treatment that she should have that could influence the course of it. 
The problems in the neck are obviously secondary to treatment as she describes them and it is just possible that some of the pain in relation to the (R) elbow relate to problems in the neck but this is not certain either. I am sorry not to be able to give a more specific prediction of outcome. Basically I believe she should make a complete recovery eventually but I would counsel against returning to computer operating meanwhile and believe it would be better to award lump sum compensation. ”
The review officer upheld the Corporation's nil assessment. There was no appearance of the appellant at the appeal hearing but I should point out at this stage that an award under s 78 can be made at any time provided a satisfactory medical certificate is supplied. The position in respect of s 79 is somewhat different. Clearly in this case the Corporation has accepted that the appellant has suffered personal injury by accident so that it remains to consider what losses she has suffered under the three headings in s 79. 
1.
There is no question of disfigurement. 
2.
Losses of amenities and capacity to enjoy life. 
The transcript is not very clear as to what these losses are but it is not difficult to imagine that there would be some sequel to the accident but in this case I am concerned that there is no real evidence of losses. 
3.
Pain and mental suffering including nervous shock and neurosis. 
It is under this heading that I think an award is justified. There is evidence of ongoing pain and loss of power. However I find it diffiult to gauge from the transcript precisely the effect of the injury. Mr Howley questioned whether the claim should have been admitted in the first instance but as it had been he did not consider an award under s 79 inappropriate. In my view a small award is justified and I fix this at $2,000. 

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