Reasonable administrative action under Comcare

Reasonable administrative action under Comcare

During 2018, Adviceline Injury Lawyers was involved in an important decision made by the Federal Court where the rejection of an employee's Comcare claim was overturned.

Gropel v Comcare [2017] AATA 1290

While working with the Department of Defence an employee suffered a psychological injury and lodged a Comcare claim. Comcare rejected the claim on the basis of reasonable administrative action. The employee appealed this decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), unsuccessfully arguing that her injury was not a result of reasonable administrative action.

Adviceline Injury Lawyers then took over conduct of the matter and appealed the AAT decision to the Federal Court.

Gropel v Comcare [2018] FCA 1146

Justice Davies of the Federal Court found the decision of the AAT was not made according to law.

Her Honour found that in order for a claim to be rejected on the grounds of reasonable administrative action, it must be shown that without the administrative action, the employee would not have suffered the injury. It is not sufficient to merely identify the administrative action as a cause of the injury without examining whether the employee would still have sustained the injury without the administrative action.

Her Honour also found that while the AAT had determined administrative action contributed to the injury, they had not properly determined whether the injury would still have occurred absent the administrative action, and this was an error of law.

The matter was to be remitted to the AAT to be determined according to law, however prior to the hearing the matter was settled with Comcare on favourable terms to the Applicant

Lessons for Comcare workers

The decision is important as it clarifies how reasonable administrative action is used as a defence.

Under Comcare legislation, there is no entitlement to compensation where an injury occurs as a result of reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner.

However because of this decision it is now clear that in order to lawfully reject a claim, Comcare must show the injury would not have occurred without the administrative action, rather than simply finding administrative action contributed to the injury.

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