Class action against WSIB claiming unfair benefit cuts given go-ahead

February 14, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

A class action lawsuit alleging Ontario injured workers had their benefits wrongfully slashed has been granted permission to proceed, after the province's compensation board sought unsuccessfully to block the case.

The suit filed by Toronto lawyer Richard Fink against the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board could impact hundreds of workers. It argues accident victims between 2012 and 2014 were "denied the full extent of benefits to which they were entitled" as a result of "misfeasance in public office" and "negligence" at the board.

The class action was originally quashed two years ago by a Superior Court judge, who said WSIB compensation decisions were "beyond court challenge." But in a reversal issued Monday, the Court of Appeal ruled it could go ahead.

"This case is about law. As in, the rule of law," Fink said. "If you accept what we've argued in our claim, the board may well be violating the law and should be subject to penalty. And that is a large step forward because it begins to hold the board accountable."

In a statement to the Star, board spokesperson Christine Arnott said the decision needed to be discussed with the WSIB's legal counsel "before determining how we will respond."

"It is important to note that the decision concerns a procedural matter, and makes no determinations about the merits of (the plaintiff's) case," she added. "We continue to deny the allegations made in the lawsuit."

Those allegations include that the WSIB sought to unfairly cut costs through a "secret policy" to "aggressively reduce" the lump sums awarded to workers with permanent injuries sustained in workplace accidents.

The policy suggested benefits could be slashed by blaming at least some of a worker's injury on a pre-existing condition — even if that condition had never shown any symptoms before the workplace accident, according to the lawsuit.

Read more: Class action against WSIB claiming unfair benefit cuts given go-ahead