The Queensland Court of Appeal has upheld a narrow view in relation to the scope of information required to be provided under section 279(1) of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the WCRA).
On 25 November 2016, in Healy v Logan City Council, Fraser and Morrison JJA and Burns J held that the introductory words of s 279(1) do not require a party to cooperate by giving another party information or copies of documents beyond that set out in section 279 (a) or (b).
The Applicant Plaintiff sought leave to appeal a decision of the District Court that found that some of the information sought by the Applicant as a “Request pursuant to section 279” was not information of the kind described in paragraph (b) of section 279(1).
Section 279(1) of the WCRA provides:
279 Parties to cooperate
(1) The parties must cooperate in relation to a claim, in particular by—
(a) giving each other copies of relevant documents about—
the circumstances of the event resulting in the injury; and
the worker's injury; and
the worker's prospects of rehabilitation; and
(b) giving information reasonably requested by each other party about—
The circumstances of the event resulting in the injury; and
the nature of the injury and of any impairment or financial loss resulting from the injury; and
if applicable—the medical treatment and rehabilitation the worker has sought from, or been provided with, by the worker's employer or the insurer; and
the worker's medical history, as far as it is relevant to the claim; and
any applications for compensation made by the claimant or worker for any injury resulting from the same event.
The District Court had found that the term “in particular” contained in s 279(1) did not mean “including”, but instead was properly read to confine the duty to cooperate by specifying the extent of that duty with greater precision. The District Court considered that an interpretation of the term “in particular” as meaning “including” would deprive paragraphs (a) and (b) of s 279 of any effect.
The Court of Appeal was essentially asked to determine whether the words “must cooperate … in particular by” are more appropriately construed by:
(a) a broad meaning, ie. “must cooperate … particularly (in the sense of “including”) by”; or
(b) a narrow meaning, ie. “must cooperate … in detail (in the sense of specifying the extent of the duty to cooperate) by”.
The Appellant Plaintiff argued for the construction set out in (a) above.
The Respondent Defendant argued the construction set out in (b) above.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the Applicant Plaintiff’s appeal, upholding the decision of the primary judge in adopting the narrow construction set out in (b) above.
This decision of the Court of Appeal offers clear guidance to all parties to a claim that exorbitant and exotic requests for documents and information will not be reasonable and will not need to be responded to pursuant to section 279 of the WCRA.
A reasonable request for information pursuant to section 279 of the WCRA will need to reflect the legislature’s intention as reflected in the precise phrasing of section 279 (a) and (b) of the WCRA. General requests for information that do not sit with that which section 279 (a) and (b) of the WCRA set out – go beyond the intention of the section and will not need to be responded to.
Though the case specifically considers the extent of the parties duty to cooperate under the WCRA, it also offers guidance when considering the construction of a similar section in section 45(1) of the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994.