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Accident Compensation Cases

Robinson v Accident Compensation Corporation (DC, 12/01/05)

Judgment Text

Judge P F Barber
On 12 August 2004, the applicants applied for leave to appeal against a reserved judgment herein of Judge J Cadenhead dated 28 July 2004 (decision no. 207/2004) which explains why he dismissed two appeals on the issue whether calculation of interest under s 72 of the Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act 1992 attracts compound interest. It seems that weekly compensation to which the applicants were entitled had not been paid within one month after the Corporation had received all information necessary to enable calculation of the respective payments. 
The grounds of this application are that Judge Cadenhead erred in law in determining that interest under s 72 of the 1992 Act did not attract compound interest and that the purpose of the legislation was only to allow interest calculated in accordance with the provisions of the Judicature Act 1908. 
In submissions supporting the present application, Mr J Robinson, as advocate for the appellant, reiterates the arguments which he had put before Judge Cadenhead and which Judge Cadenhead comprehensively and lucidly dealt with in his said decision. 
There is a right of appeal to the High Court on a question of law with regard to decisions of this Court under s 162(1) of the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001 which reads: “162 … (1) A party to an appeal who is dissatisfied with the decision of a District Court as being wrong in law may, with the leave of the District Court, appeal to the High Court.” 
However, I am also conscious of the principle enunciated by Doogue J in Impact Manufacturing Ltd v ARCIC (unreported, High Court, Wellington AP 266/00, 6 July 2001) that the point of law must be “capable of bona fide and serious argument” in order for an applicant to be entitled to leave under the said s 162. Usually in these applications, the question is whether the point on which an applicant seeks leave to appeal is a question of law as distinct from a question of fact. In this case, the questions which the applicants wish to take to the High Court are clearly questions of law but, in my view, they are not capable of serious argument. 
In his said decision, Judge Cadenhead outlined the applicable legislation under the Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act 1992 and made reference to s 87 of the Judicature Act 1908. He determined that the meaning of s 72 of the 1992 Act was for a claimant to receive interest at a simple rate rather than a compound one and, in my respectful view, he did this comprehensively and lucidly. The applicants are questioning Judge Cadenhead's interpretation of s 72 of the 1992 Act and, of course, contend that it ought to be interpreted as making interest payable at a compound rather than a simple rate. The applicants simply dispute Judge Cadenhead's reasoning when, as he has explained, the legislation is clear and unambiguous. Judge Cadenhead also identified a number of other decisions where the same issue has been considered and it has been held in unison that there is no provision under relevant legislation for interest to be paid at a compound rate on late payment of weekly compensation. 
I see little point in traversing the reasoning of Judge Cadenhead with which I respectfully agree. Actually, I would, in addition, observe that it seems to me to be impossible to interpret the relevant words in s 72 of the 1992 Act (i.e. “interest shall be paid on the amount payable by the Corporation at the rate for the time being prescribed by or for the purposes of section 87 of the Judicature Act 1908 from the date on which payment should have been made to the date on which it is made” as it authorising any more than a simple calculation of interest from one date, namely, that on which payment should have been made, to another date, namely, the date on which it actually is made. In terms of the commercial marketplace, if there had been the intention of providing compound interest, then the draftsman of s 72 would have been expected to have added a reference to rests, whether quarterly, annually or whatever, and on those rest dates the total sum of compensation plus interest would have been accrued and interest would then have continued on the accrued amount and so on to give the element of compound interest. 
Ms Becroft submits that the applicants have failed to raise a serious and arguable question of law. It seems to be that the question is serious enough but, in my view, is simply not arguable and that has been comprehensively explained by Judge Cadenhead. While I am sensitive to facilitating applicants bring questions of law to the High Court from this Court, it seems to me that it is close to an abuse of the Justice system to seek to re-argue the obvious; and this seems to me to be one of those unusual situations where the Justice system should not have to re-explain the answer at a higher level. 
Accordingly, the application for leave to appeal is declined. The respondent does not seem to seek costs which, in any event, are reserved. 

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