BC court orders new hearing on worker’s mental disorder claim due to expert's incomplete information

It was irrational to accept expert's opinion without full info on work-related stressors: court

BC court orders new hearing on worker’s mental disorder claim due to expert's incomplete information

The BC Supreme Court set aside the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal's (WCAT) decision on a worker’s mental disorder compensation claim due to procedural unfairness and reliance on incomplete information from an expert.

In J.T. v British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal), 2024 BCSC 994, J.T., J.T., a security guard with Scarlet West Coast Security Ltd., sought judicial review after WCAT denied his appeal against the Workers’ Compensation Board's rejection of his mental disorder compensation claim.

The mental disorder claim, under Section 135 of the Workers Compensation Act, requires the disorder to be predominantly caused by significant work-related stressors, including bullying or harassment.

J.T. argued that the WCAT's decision was patently unreasonable and lacked procedural fairness, asserting that he was subjected to numerous instances of bullying and harassment during his employment. Specific incidents included threats, mocking of his history of alcohol abuse, and unsafe working conditions.

The Supreme Court identified critical flaws in WCAT's process, particularly its reliance on the psychological assessment by an expert, who was not provided with complete information about the 89 incidents J.T. reported. The court stated it was irrational to accept the expert’s opinion on the causation of the mental disorder when she lacked comprehensive information about all significant work-related stressors.

The court found it unreasonable for WCAT not to ensure that the expert or another psychologist had complete details about the 89 occurrences before concluding that the significant work-related stressors were not the predominant cause of J.T.'s adjustment disorder. Given the critical importance of the causation element in J.T.'s claim, the court found WCAT's refusal to obtain a further or updated psychological assessment breached procedural fairness.

Ultimately, the BC Supreme Court set aside WCAT's decision and the subsequent reconsideration decision, remitting the matter to WCAT for a new oral hearing. The court emphasized the need for WCAT to ensure a thorough and informed psychological assessment, considering all reported incidents.

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