Serious Injury Update - Noori v Topaz Fine Foods

Serious Injury Update - Para (c) & ‘disentangling’ in Noori v Topaz Fine Foods [2018] VSCA 323 (5 December 2018)

The case of Noori is an appeal in respect of a Serious Injury Application based on paragraph (c) of s134AB of the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (Vic) (“the Act”).

The worker fell from a stepladder and developed symptoms of acute and disabling pain.

There was no organic injury. Rather, his new pain symptoms constituted an aggravation or exacerbation of his prior psychiatric illness. The injury satisfied the ‘serious injury’ definition, but the trial judge rejected the application on the basis that he had difficulty disentangling work related symptoms from the totality of the worker’s condition.

The Court of Appeal held [at 5] that no question of ‘disentanglement’ arises under para (c) of the definition of serious injury. Disentanglement is a task which only arises in relation to para (a) of the definition. That is, where the application is based on the ‘permanent serious impairment or loss of a body function’ – in which case the Court is obliged by s 134AB(h) of the Act to exclude from consideration ‘the psychological or psychiatric consequences of a physical injury’. This involves the ‘disentangling’ of the psychological consequences from the physical consequences of the injury. Whereas,  paragraph (c) enables the Court to take into account both psychological and physical consequences of a physical/psychiatric injury.

The Court of Appeal held [at 33] that it was neither necessary nor appropriate to separate out or ‘disentangle’ the consequences of the applicant’s pre-existing psychiatric condition in circumstances where the accident ‘triggered’ his experience of pain. 

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