Chronic pain court ruling – possible $12 million payout to 1,400 people

Scotia Court of Appeal has ruled that workers who were injured and developed chronic pain on the job before April 17, 1985, should be assessed for benefits

Province accepts injured workers ruling

CBC News

A court ruling on Workers’ Compensation Board benefits could result in a $12-million payout to 1,400 people, Labour Minister Mark Parent said Tuesday.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has ruled that workers who were injured and developed chronic pain on the job before April 17, 1985, should be assessed for benefits.

Until now, the WCB only paid out claims to such workers if they were injured after April 17, 1985, when the section on equality rights of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms went into effect.

Parent said the province will respect the court of appeal’s ruling.

“What that meant is anyone who developed chronic pain, whether it was after 1985 or before 1985, was assessable,” he said. “There’s about 1,400 people, and a potential cost estimated right now at about $12 million.”

Parent said the process of assessing workers will begin right away.

Nancy MacCready-Williams, CEO of the WCB, said she expects the work will be done by June 2008.

Halifax Daily News

Chronic-pain claims set to be reviewed. Court rules 1,400 workers’ compensation claims can be reconsidered.


A slight wording discrepancy means the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia is on the hook to re-evaluate about 1,400 chronic-pain claims.

“The court has given us clarity now,” WCB spokeswoman Mary Kingston said yesterday.

A Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision released Dec. 7 found workers can be considered for benefits, even if their chronic pain began before April 17, 1985 – the key date that’s been applied in those cases since a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2003. That was when the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms took effect.

“There’s no question that the regulations say that they apply to workers before the Charter, so we’ll begin to assess those cases and review cases for those workers to determine if they’re eligible for benefits,” Kingston told The Daily News.

When the province initially changed its regulations and the WCB its policies – in response to the Supreme Court decision – the two bodies used “slightly different wording,” she explained. While the Workers Compensation Act states that injured workers had to have chronic pain by the 1985 date in order to be assessed, the board policy said a worker had to have developed chronic pain as of that date.

That’s what led Philip Cohen, a Glace Bay steelworker injured in 1982, to appeal the decision in his case, along with several other Nova Scotians.

“He believed the wording the government used applied to workers injured before the date of the Charter, so he took that issue to court. And the court agreed with him,” said Kingston.

Reached yesterday at home just hours after he’d learned of the ruling, Cohen said he preferred not to say too much until his own benefits application is reviewed.

“I would be very naive if I didn’t appreciate how far it’s gone. There have been a lot of people who have done a lot of hard work to bring this about,” he said, adding he still worries deserving people “will fall through the cracks.”

Kingston said the appeal-court ruling actually goes further than the Supreme Court intended, but that the WCB will start reviewing cases right away. It hopes to complete the process by June 2008.

The board estimates paying such claims will cost about $12 million – $7.4 million of which relates to insured claims. The remaining costs would be covered by self-insurers who pay the cost of claims directly.

Labour Minister Mark Parent said the government was always in favour of allowing chronic pain assessments for workers injured before 1985. His department passed regulations to that effect, but the Workers Compensation Board’s policy differed “slightly.”

Parent said he didn’t know how much the case cost taxpayers. – With files from Brian Flinn.