Injured worker suing WorkSafeNB over abuse of process
Lawyer says he hopes the lawsuit will set a standard for dealing with injured workers
A commissioned officer in the merchant marines is suing WorkSafeNB for abuse of process in connection with an injury he suffered more than 26 years ago.
Murray Goodwin has been tangled in a fight with the provincial agency since an accident in 1987.
Goodwin was working as a first mate aboard an Irving tugboat outside of Saint John Harbour. He was 18 hours into a shift on rough seas when he suffered his injury.
"We have probably a 14-, 20-foot swell and I slipped … and I landed with my arm stretched out on a steel rail," Goodwin said.
"And what happened I broke my ribs, on the left side. Tore my arm, pretty much came out of its socket. And my doctors said if I hadn't been strong in the upper body, I would have driven my ribs straight though my lungs."
Goodwin said the accident was a life-changing event at age 47 and his body was never the same.
Since the accident, Goodwin faced multiple rejections for treatments and surgeries ordered by his doctors and specialists.
Goodwin said the provincial agency eventually agreed to pay for some of his medications and did ultimately cover his surgeries several years after his doctors and specialists first ordered them.
But Goodwin said the agency's actions were all too little and too late.
Goodwin, now 73, sold his house in Oromocto and spent $45,000 in legal fees hoping for justice against WorkSafeNB.
"I don't want anybody else to go through this and lose their career and lose their family," he said.
"I lost everything I owned."
The lawsuit, however, has been winding its way through the legal system for several years. WorkSafeNB tried to quash the lawsuit in a 2009 hearing before Justice Hugh McLellan.
But McLellan said Goodwin's case is exceptional and he did have the right to take the matter to trial.
The trial was supposed to start in March but the matter was held over. Goodwin is now scheduled to appear in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saint John in November.
Pete Mockler, a Fredericton lawyer, who has taken on Goodwin’s case, said it is difficult for injured workers to take on an organization, such as WorkSafeNB.
"If I were an injured worker, I would rather die from the injury than make a claim against workers [compensation]. It's that complicated and that difficult," he said.
The Fredericton lawyer said he hopes for a judgment that will offer implied recommendations on how the workers compensation system should function in good faith and how it should treat workers in the future.
"That would send a message to the commission. That message would reverberate around the country because I'm told and have some reasons to believe that the New Brunswick commission is not alone in terms of how people are dealt with," Mockler said.
Goodwin is the latest person to voice his displeasure with WorkSafeNB.
Dr. Barry Wecker, who has practised medicine for 26 years in the Plaster Rock area, said earlier this week he gets about 10 cases a year that are rejected by WorkSafeNB for no understandable reason.
He said it baffles him when case workers for the provincial agency overrule his professional advice.
Dr. Richard Dumais, head of the Dr.-Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital's pain clinic, said the chronic denial of medical services from WorkSafeNB has become a human rights issue and he's calling for political action.
Dumais said WorkSafeNB has stopped taking his advice in the last decade. So, four months ago, Dumais decided he won't take WorkSafeNB patients anymore.
The pain specialist said it is a "psychological nightmare" for his patients to be told he can help them with a certain procedure and then have the provincial agency deny funding.