Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1724 16
14/07/2016
M. Crystal
  • Dependency benefits (one hundred per cent pension)
  • Statutory interpretation (principles of)

The worker suffered multiple injuries in an accident in October 1975, for which he was granted a 48% pension. He suffered further multiple injuries in an accident May 1977, for which he was granted a 60% pension. The worker died in September 2013, of reasons unrelated to the compensable accidents. The worker's estate appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying survivor benefits.

The Board extends entitlement to survivor benefits regardless of cause of death if the worker had a 100% pension in one claim. The Board denied the survivor benefits in this case because the worker had a pension of 100% resulting from two claims, not one claim.
Section 43(7) of the 1970 Act provides that a dependant of a worker who was, at the time of his death, in receipt of an award for permanent disability which the Board has rated at 100%, is entitled to compensation as if the death had resulted from the compensable disability.
The Vice-Chair was of the view that, according to the plain and literal meaning, section 43(7) could equally be interpreted to apply to circumstances where the 100% pension benefits were awarded as a result of one accident or where they were awarded as a result of more than one accident. This interpretation is supported by s. 67 of the Legislation Act, which provides that words in the singular include the plural and words in the plural include the singular. It was also supported by s. 28 of the Interpretation Act, which was the predecessor of the Legislation Act.
If the Legislature had intended that s. 43(7) apply only in circumstances where the 100% pension was awarded in relation to one accident, it could have included wording to make that meaning clear. The Vice-Chair noted that there is such clear wording Board Operational Policy Manual, Document No. 18-07-08, on payments to dependants. However, that policy only applied to accidents from April 1, 1985, to December 31, 1997, and thus was not applicable in this case where the accidents occurred in 1975 and 1977.
The Vice-Chair distinguished two Tribunal decisions on the basis that they involved accidents to which there was applicable policy.
The Vice-Chair concluded that the worker was entitled to 100% pension benefits at the time of his death and that, in accordance with s. 43(7), the estate was entitled to survivor benefits. The appeal was allowed.