Meaning of “one claim”; Amendment of Claims

In Woolworths Ltd v Steven Stafford [2015] NSW WCC PD 36, DP Roche considered whether a worker was prevented from amending his claim by the “one claim” restrictions.

The worker had initially claimed permanent impairment compensation for 7% WPI which, after the High Court Goudappel appeal, was insufficient to satisfy the s. 66(1) threshold.  He subsequently sought to amend the claim to 12% WPI after medical evidence identified the basis for an increased impairment.  The insurer declined liability on the basis that the initial claim was the “one claim” permitted by s. 66(1A).

DP Roche agreed with the Arbitrator’s finding that “one claim” means one “valid” claim, meaning a claim capable of payment.  As there was no entitlement to permanent impairment compensation for 7% WPI the initial claim did not satisfy this definition.

The Deputy President noted that because of the consequences of the “one claim” provisions, the definition of “claim” should not be narrowly construed.  He also made the interesting obiter remark that there was some merit in the worker’s argument that “one claim” means “one determined claim”.

The Deputy President also held that there is nothing in the legislation preventing a claim from being amended:-

To suggest that, prior to the resolution or determination of the claim, by making a demand for permanent impairment compensation for a certain level of permanent impairment, the worker is permanently locked into that claim, and cannot amend it, is untenable and contrary to all principles of justice”.

DP Roche considered that the Rules allowing amendment of documents “for the avoidance of injustice” illustrate that the interests of justice are best served by also allowing amendment of other claim documents, with amendment to take effect from the date of the original document, not the date of amendment.

The extent to which this accommodation will extend to amendment of other documents (e.g Dispute Notices) remains to be seen.