Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1293 20
K. Jepson - K. Soden - C. Salama
  • Arising out of employment (common activity)
  • Causation (thin skull doctrine)
  • Chance event (interpretation)

The employer appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer granting the worker entitlement for a back injury suffered while pushing a door in October 2017.

The employer relied on Decision No. 900/06, in submitting that there was no accident as the worker was engaged in a common activity.
The Panel agreed with Decision No. 3000/17R, and found that there is no legal principle that everyday activities cannot result in injuries. Where the evidence demonstrates a sudden onset of pain or symptoms in the course of employment, that will generally be suggestive, though not conclusive, evidence that there was a personal injury by accident. The nature of the accident mechanism may also be important, but its relevance lies in considering whether the injury diagnosis is sufficiently linked to the precipitating movement, activity, motion, or incident that occurred in the course of employment. It is not a separate, threshold consideration to be evaluated on its own without consideration of the medical evidence and any other evidence that is relevant to the likely cause of the sudden onset of symptoms.
This is the predominant approach in Tribunal jurisprudence as to what constitutes a chance event accident; the nature of the accident mechanism, including whether it is an ordinary, everyday activity, is not an independent, threshold consideration when considering whether a personal injury by accident occurred.
There were also other aspects of Decision No. 900/06 that were inconsistent with prevailing Tribunal case law. However, as the Vice-Chair held in Decision No. 3000/17R, whether a movement was deliberate or intended has not been considered by Tribunal cases to be relevant in determining whether a personal injury by accident occurred. Under the thin skull doctrine, if the evidence shows that an injury occurred in the course of employment, it does not matter that the same accident mechanism might not have caused injury to a different or less susceptible worker.
The reasons in Decision No. 900/06 represented a significant departure from the usual and predominant approach in Tribunal case law. The Panel concluded that Decision No. 900/06 should not be followed.
On the evidence, the Panel found that the worker had entitlement for a low back injury suffered in October 2017. The appeal was dismissed.