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Accident Compensation Cases

Bonner v Accident Compensation Corporation (DC, 11/09/14)

Judgment Text

Decision of Judge J A Smith 
The Court has no jurisdiction in respect of the Corporation's letter of 23 May 2011. 
The letter dated 18 August 2011 is not before this Court. Mr Nottingham accepts that this should be proceeded with by a complaint under the Code of Claimant's Rights (the Code) or potential review proceedings in the High Court. 
The Court notes its concerns about the issue of representation, but these matters are intended to be addressed in the first instance through Code complaints, and if necessary in superior courts. 
In the circumstances the Court can make no orders for costs or require the reviewer to do so (ACR712/11). 
Judge J A Smith
This is an appeal to a decision of the Review Authority dated 24 October 2011 refusing jurisdiction in respect of a decision letter dated 23 May 2011, which reads: 
“On 18th May 2011 ACC received your consent for Advantage Advocacy Limited, its agents, assigns, and employees to act on your behalf. 
This consent will be added to your file, however this letter is to advise you that ACC will not be bound by this consent. If you would like an advocate to act on your behalf you will need to confirm the advocate by name. The consent received on 18th May 2011 is too broad. ”
The question is whether one can review a letter under the Act. The appeal alleges a breach of the Code and it is therefore justiciable by way of a complaint under the Code procedure and then review to a review officer. Section 149(3) explicitly provides that such decisions are not justiciable in the District Court. 
The real issue 
The real issue that Mr Nottingham has is that the Corporation has refused to allow him to represent Mr Bonner. When I look through the Corporation file I see that a letter dated 18 August 2011 states inter alia, after listing all of the members of Mr Nottingham's business: 
“As you are aware ACC do not recognise Mr Dermot Nottingham in the role of advocate for ACC clients. This means that ACC will not be bound to this consent for Mr Dermot Nottingham. ”
Mr Nottingham tells me that that is his real complaint and that he considers that the Corporation has restricted Mr Bonner's proper choice of advocate and that this is a breach of the Code. 
The Court has no jurisdiction in respect of the letter of 23 May 2011. That letter merely required the identification of the individual people acting. The letter of 18 August 2011 may be another matter, but it is not the subject of any application for review. The proper course of action is for a complaint to be made under the Code and then, if dissatisfied with the outcome of that complaint, a review can be made. 
I do note the apparent attempt to restrict the public's choice of advocate in this case. Mr Nottingham referred to the case of Jackson v ACC1
| X |Footnote: 1
AI 483/2 
as to circumstances where the Court might intervene. He acknowledges for current purposes, this matter has not been raised in this review and the proper course is to make a complaint under the Code and if necessary take the matter to review. 
One would have thought there is a right for a person to choose any advocate they wish, unless constrained by the statutory provisions themselves. That matter would probably only be remedial in a superior Court. Nevertheless, it appears that the Corporation have provided the mechanism for resolution of such disputes through the Code and complaints procedure. 
Accordingly the Court finds it has no jurisdiction to determine this appeal, nor does it have the jurisdiction as to costs or to order the reviewer to make an order for costs. That being the case, the proper course is to allow the real complaint, being the letter of 26 August 2011, to proceed through the correct complaints procedure, if Mr Nottingham wishes to do so. 
There can be no order for costs (ACR712/11). 

AI 483/2 

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