Decades-old case drags on, son finds out money doesn’t grow on trees

Powell Estate v. British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Board), 2003 CarswellBC 2070 (B.C. C.A.)

In 1937 James Atchison fell from a tree while working. He received a disability pension from the (then) Workmen’s Compensation Board. He died in 1955. His widow, Margaret Atchison, applied for a widow’s pension.

She was denied, because they said his death was not related to the accident. Nearly 10 years later, she remarried.

In 1956, and again in 1957, appeals to the board were made and both were subsequently rejected.

In 1996 their son, Duncan Atchison, mistakenly believing that his mother had lost the pension when she remarried, applied for reinstatement of the widow’s pension. He was told his mother had never received a widow’s pension and there was nothing to reinstate.

Margaret Atchison died shortly thereafter and Duncan, as her executor, sought reconsideration on the basis of new evidence.

The Appeal Division agreed to reopen the 1956 decision. In February 2000 a panel concluded that Atchison’s death was related to his workplace injury.

The Council of Forest Industries immediately sought a reconsideration of that decision. Shortly after that, the Workers’ Compensation Board told Duncan the Appeal Division acted outside its jurisdiction when it reviewed the 1956 and 1957 decisions and therefore there was no entitlement to a retroactive widow’s pension.

Duncan applied to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for a judicial review. He asked for payment of the widow’s pension retroactive to 1955. The appeal was dismissed.

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