Tassal has failed in its attempt to prevent an employee from gaining workers' compensation after he suffered a spinal injury while lifting a heavy weight to unhook a net.
The worker first noticed the injury on February 20 last year when he felt a sudden pain in his neck and with lifting his right arm while working, and numbness over the following days and weeks.
He described the initial pain as a "cold feeling".
He reported the injury on March 16 and underwent scans, which confirmed he was suffering from degenerative cervical spondylosis. A GP noted he had no previous symptoms before the sudden pain while lifting a 60 to 70-kilogram weight to unhook a net.
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The worker had 17 days off between February 20 and March 16, when he told a manager that his shoulder "had been bugging him for a while".
Tassal's insurer engaged a neurosurgeon, who initially found that the work incident was the cause, but then disputed whether it was a "substantial cause" after assessing the worker's history.
Tassal took the worker's claim to the the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Tribunal, which ruled in the worker's favour, finding that Tassal's case was not "reasonably arguable" - the threshold for being able to dispute a claim.
Tassal then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the worker was already suffering from the condition before the workplace incident, and that the incident while working was an aggravation and acceleration rather than the main cause.
For compensation, the worker's employment had to have contributed to the injury "to a substantial degree", which means it must be the main factor.
Justice Robert Pearce found this to be the case.
"I think the Chief Commissioner was entitled to conclude that the only plausible explanation for the emergence or worsening of the worker's condition which led to his incapacity was that his employment was the major or most significant contributing factor to that aggravation," he ruled.
The worker was found to be entitled to weekly payments and other benefits under the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.
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