Don’t cry over spilt milk – continuing injury sees Woolworth worker’s claim rejected

Don’t cry over spilt milk – continuing injury sees Woolworth worker’s claim rejected

12 December 2019 Topics: Insurance, Compulsory Third Party (CTP)

Harrison v Workers’ Compensation Regulator [2019] ICQ 17

The Industrial Court of Queensland has recently upheld a decision of Woolworths to reject a claim for compensation on the basis that it was a continuum of an earlier injury.

Mr Harrison had been employed by Woolworths as an order picker in a distribution centre. He claimed that he suffered an injury to his right elbow lifting a heavy crate of milk. Mr Harrison had made two previous WorkCover claims for elbow injuries in 2010 and 2014, one after he struck his elbow on shelving and another after he suffered right epicondylitis or ‘tennis elbow’, requiring surgery.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) initially dismissed Mr Harrison’s appeal on the basis that the increased symptoms to his right elbow were merely a continuum, rather than an aggravation, of the previous injury.

The Industrial Court also dismissed the appeal finding that, because the injury occurred as a result of complications with his previous surgery, it did not qualify as an aggravation. The evidence suggested there was no acute or new injury, meaning there was no worsening of his underlying degenerative condition.

It is relatively common for workers in environments such as distribution centres to make multiple claims in relation to an underlying condition or an injury that they have already been compensated for. This case shows that employers should carefully scrutinise whether there is an actual worsening of the injury, as opposed to the symptoms, because if there is not they will not have any further liability.

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