Woolies & its defense lawyers tried to deny workcover claim to suicidal injured worker


On our “Meet the system” page, we compiled the list of the “major” role players in the workcover system, and ranked each group by its level of indifference to the welfare and the plight of the injured worker. Workcover insurance companies and their evil defense lawyers are listed as number one enemies, followed by (most) IMEs. If you read the following disturbing legal case, you will have proof of this utter indifference and lack of humanity.

Woolies & its defense lawyers tried to deny workcover claim to suicidal injured worker

In this disturbing NSW legal case, self-insured Woolworths Ltd and its evil defense lawyers (Sparke Helmore), along with a psychiatric IME  (Dr Snowdon) have gone to great lengths to attempt to deny workcover to an injured worker, who suffered of such a major psychological injury that he attempted suicide.

Background of the workcover case

The injured worker, worked for Woolworths Ltd, for a total of about 16 years over two different periods. He last worked for Woolworths as a store services manager from about 2001 until he stopped work on 21 May 2009 after a meeting at work about his work performance. After returning home that evening, the injured worker attempted suicide resulting in him being admitted (as an involuntary patient) to Hospital.
The injured worker claimed compensation for a psychological injury (Major Depression) alleged to have been caused by the failure of Woolworths to provide sufficient support to complete his work and by harassment and bullying within the worksite.

Relying on a report from IME Dr Snowdon, consultant psychiatrist, Woolworths disputed liability on the ground that the injured worker suffered from “narcotic and benzodiazepine (Valium) dependence“. Woolies and its defense lawyers also alleged, in the alternative, that any aggravation of the injured worker’s condition was a result of reasonable action taken in relation to performance appraisal and discipline under s 11A of the Workers Compensation Act NSW 1987 (the 1987 Act).

The Workers Compensation Commission of New South Wales (WCC) hearing

The WCC heard that Woolworths disputed the liability, blaming the injured worker’s depression on drug dependency. (The injured worker suffered nerve damage to his neck in a car accident in 1999, which has caused pain in the left side of his neck and into his left face, shoulder and arm ever since. The injured worker’s general practitioner, consistently prescribed narcotics for his symptoms arising from this accident from 1999 to 2009.)

The WCC stated:

….I find the opinions of the treating psychologist, treating psychiatrist and treating general practitioner more persuasive than that of Dr Snowdon and the contents of the Hospital records, for the reasons that those doctors have had the benefit of long term treatment and observation of (the injured worker) and are adamant that they saw no signs of long term drug use or later withdrawal. I am particularly persuaded by Dr Gillies’ report, in view of her specialist qualifications in drug rehabilitation, Dr Daya’s (injured worker’s GP) opinion, as he saw (the injured worker) on a long-term basis, and the absence of any references to drug taking or dependency in Dr Daya’s clinical notes.

I find on the basis of the evidence recorded above that on the balance of probabilities (the injured worker) did not suffer from a narcotic and benzodiazepine dependence and on this basis I do not accept Dr Snowdon’s diagnosis of an anxiety condition caused by such a dependency.

Woolies also claimed that any aggravation of the injured worker’s condition was the result of reasonable employer action.

Thankfully, The WCC ruled in favour of the injured worker and granted compensation.

Woolworths (and its defense lawyers) unsuccessfully tried to appeal this decision! Undoubtedly adding further insult to the suicidal injured worker.

The WCC found that the injured worker’s work was a substantial contributing factor to his psychological injury and Woolies’ appeal was without merit.

The above is just a snapshot of the principal events re this case, however it is a long and perhaps convoluted story. Nevertheless, it is quite disturbing to read the full text of the case, especially the dirty tactics used by the employer and its defense lawyers to try and deny this injured worker compensation.

You can read the full text of the legal case here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/nsw/NSWWCCP /2013/38.html

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3 Comments on "Woolies & its defense lawyers tried to deny workcover claim to suicidal injured worker"

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judy dawson
I find this story close to my heart as i am a coles victim on workcover & have been for 7+ years. i fired some guy & he hurt me bad. I take pain killers & find it hard to hear abuse as im not a worker etc anymore. i have been told i have depression badly & anxiety to the state of panic the report says. i went to their psych appointments etc & just sat in shock as he cleaned his ear with a pen…..He had nothing to say except at least you have a roof over your… Read more »
Hi Sarah Jane, You have said that evil word CGU. It is very hard to accept that case managers who have never had injuries themselves nor have any medical or relevant mental experience to deal with people who are injured so really why are they not trained to understand? simple its not about helping the injured worker they just want you off there books hence why the RTW programs are not practical and rehabilitation is a word that obviously has never been heard of at CGU. I Have been on the merry go round with them for 5 years and… Read more »
@Ian I too deal with CGU but under NT legislation…My case manager dragged her tail as well and I wouldnt hear anything for months from her….CGU’s specialist stated in his report I needed surgery and was totally incapacitated for work…My case manager ignored this and sent me too their medical whore Occupational physician who stated I had no injury and if I did it had resolved itself and gave me a psychiatric label that a psychiatrist would not give me..This IME also hurt me in his 5 min bizarre physical exam…I was fortunate that I recorded this strange consult and… Read more »