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Accident Compensation Cases

Smith v Accident Compensatin Corporation (DC, 08/03/04)

Judgment Text

Judge J. Cadenhead
The appellant has applied for leave to appeal to the High Court against a decision of His Honour Judge M.J. Beattie dated 22 August 2003. 
The short background to two appeals decided by His Honour are: 
The appellant has cover under the Act for a back injury suffered in the course of his employment as a bushman on 9 April 1981. 
For periods of time following that injury the appellant applied for and received earnings related compensation in respect of that injury. 
In April 1992 the Corporation advised the appellant that it was ceasing his weekly compensation entitlement on the basis that the appellant had not provided the Corporation with proper details of his income and that he had in fact been earning during the period when he was receiving weekly compensation. 
The respondent's decision ceased earnings related compensation was confirmed by review decision dated 16 March 1994. 
The appellant lodged an appeal to the Accident Compensation Appeal Authority and by decision dated 1 June 1995 His Honour Judge Middleton dismissed the appellant's appeal. 
The appellant then appealed the Authority's decision to the High Court pursuant to the provisions of the Accident Compensation Act 1982 and in a judgment dated 5 February 1998 His Honour Justice Chisholm dismissed the appeal. 
His Honour observed from the extensive written submissions filed by the appellant in relation to the two appeals, the appellant still felt terribly aggrieved by the Corporation's decision in April 1992 to cease his weekly compensation entitlement, and indeed, the substance of the submissions were wholly designed to revisit the issues that were canvassed in the various decisions to which His Honour had referred. 
The first appeal was in respect to an application made to the respondent for the costs of obtaining an MRI scan for his lumbar spine. That application was acceded to and the respondent advised the appellant by letter dated 19 February 2002 that it would agree to pay for the MRI scan that was sought. 
As is the case with a formal decision, even though it was favourable to the appellant, the respondent's decision letter contained the advice that if the appellant was not satisfied with the decision he had a right of review. 
The appellant thereupon lodged an application for review referring to the respondent's decision, but in effect seeking to have the reviewer consider all the circumstances which give rise to the respondent's decision of 1992 to cancel his weekly compensation entitlement. 
At the hearing of that review on 10 July 2002, the appellant had no quarrel with the respondent's decision of 19 February 2002 agreeing to pay for the MRI scan. However, it was noted that the appellant was now seeking to have the question of his weekly compensation entitlement revisited, and he contended that the compensation had been wrongly and/or illegally stopped. 
The reviewer in his decision dated 18 July 2002, noted that there was no outstanding issue in relation to the respondent's decision of 19 February 2002, therefore he had no jurisdiction to look into the matters relating to the cessation of weekly compensation, which had been stopped by the appellant. 
The appellant appealed to this Court against that review decision, and Judge Beattie upheld the decision of the review officer. He noted that the Court's jurisdiction was to hear appeals under the provisions of the Accident Insurance Act 1998, and that such jurisdiction was confined to a consideration of the decision of the respondent which was dealt with at the review. 
This Court had no jurisdiction in the context of its appellate function to consider matters outside the ambit of the review decision, or the respondent's primary decision which was favourable to the appellant. 
The second appeal arising from a review decision was filed under reference AI 64/02. That decision concerned three applications for review filed by the appellant in August and September 2002, where the appellant had requested the respondent to again reconsider matters pertaining to its decision of April 1992 relating to the cancellation of weekly compensation. 
The review officer stated that he had no jurisdiction to hear these appeals, and the appellant was seeking to raise matters which were now considered to be res judicata. He noted the appellant was in effect seeking to assert that the earlier review, Appeal Authority and High Court decisions given were wrong. 
The reviewer found that there were in fact no decision which could be identified as being capable of being reviewed, and the matters which the appellant was seeking to advance were now res judicata. Upon that basis the reviewer dismissed all three applications. 
In his decision, Judge Beattie confirmed that the issues were indeed res judicata and had been finally determined. He thought that any further attempts by the appellant to relitigate the issue would border on the vexatious. 
The Appellant's Submissions 
The appellant seeks to state to the High Court the issues that I have set out arising from the appeal decision of Judge M.J. Beattie. In essence, the appellant is seeking to relitigate issues that had been previously determined by the High Court, and his submission is that such issues cannot be regarded as res judicata. In addition, the appellant submits that Judge Beattie did not have jurisdiction as he did not qualify to hold the position under s 155 of the 1972 Act, or s 103 of the 1982 Act. 
I deal with the second point first, as clearly Judge Beattie had jurisdiction to deal with the appeal in front of him because they arose from review hearings conducted on 18 July 2002 and 20 November 2002, and were within the purview of the appeal structure of the 1998 Accident Insurance Act. 
Again, clearly the issues attempted to be raised by the appellant as it were by collateral attack in respect to the review decisions appealed to Judge Beattie had been finally determined by the High Court. I can see nothing in the materials in front of me that would warrant a further appeal in this matter, or that there are any issues that are capable of sustaining a serious point of law for consideration by the High Court. 
The application for leave to appeal is declined, and there will be no order as to costs. 

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