Ontario Superior Court rejects worker's psychological impairment claim from a workplace injury

He was a construction load operator who sustained a lower back injury in 2006

Ontario Superior Court rejects worker's psychological impairment claim from a workplace injury

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal's decisions regarding a worker's claim that his psychological impairments were caused by a workplace injury in 2006.

In Priolo v. Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal, 2024 ONSC 2083, the applicant is a construction load operator who sustained a lower back injury in 2006 at the age of 46. He sought to overturn the tribunal's findings that the incident did not significantly cause his psychological impairments.

Following the initial rejection of his claim by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the applicant pursued multiple appeals, all of which upheld the original decision. The tribunal consistently found that while the applicant did suffer from psychological impairments, these were not significantly related to the workplace accident, citing pre-existing conditions and other life stressors as contributory factors.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice reviewed the standard of reasonableness in this case, aligning with established legal precedents that do not involve constitutional matters or questions of law critical to the legal system. The court pointed out that the tribunal's decisions are given considerable deference per the robust privative clause in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

Throughout the judicial proceedings, the applicant argued that the tribunal's decision was unreasonable and sought a detailed re-evaluation of the evidence. However, the court maintained that such a re-evaluation was beyond its purview under a reasonableness review. The court found that the tribunal's conclusion was based on comprehensive medical evidence and testimonies, which the tribunal considered more supportive than conclusive of causation.

The tribunal noted the applicant had a complex medical and personal history, including a diagnosed pain disorder and chronic depression with anxiety features since 1998, multiple employment gaps, and significant personal life stressors. These factors, combined with the medical evidence presented, led the tribunal to conclude that the workplace injury did not significantly exacerbate the applicant's psychological condition.

In response to the applicant's repeated requests for reconsideration, supported by additional reports from an expert and a social worker, the tribunal found that these submissions did not introduce new evidence sufficient to alter the initial decision. The tribunal characterized the subsequent report as a reiteration of earlier opinions rather than a new, independent assessment.

The court’s decision to dismiss the application and decline to order costs was rooted in its mandate to defer to the tribunal's factual findings unless clearly unreasonable. Ultimately, the court found that the tribunal’s findings were reasonable, and its reasoning disclosed no basis for the court to intervene. 

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