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ACC and appeals to the Supreme Court (part 2)

06 October 2017

As discussed in LawTalk 909 (August 2017), 'ACC and Appeals to the Supreme Court', the New Zealand Law Society has written to the Ministers for Justice and ACC, seeking reform of the law to allow an appeal pathway to the Supreme Court for ACC cases.

The ministers have responded that there is currently no plan to progress such reform. The correspondence can be found on the Law Society’s website, in News & Communications Law Reform Submissions Submissions on discussion papers, under the heading Access to Justice, and relevant excerpts are reproduced below. The Law Society said in its letter of 20 July 2017 that:

“The ACC Act is very significant legislation because it removed the common law right to sue to recover damages for personal injury and replaced it with a unique statutory compensation scheme covering work and non-work injuries. It is therefore appropriate that decisions made by ACC under the scheme should be amenable to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. Most disputes involving ACC turn on the interpretation of statutory provisions and New Zealand’s highest court should therefore be the final arbiter as to the meaning of the statute. It is extraordinary that the Court of Appeal is effectively the court of last resort in this very significant area. …

It is also important to note that there are safeguards in the existing legislation to ensure that only appropriate appeals, on matters of genuine public significance, would be heard by the Supreme Court. There is therefore little likelihood of a significant number of ACC appeals to the Supreme Court. On the other hand, to preclude such appeals means that our highest court is unable to contribute to the development of ACC jurisprudence …

It appears that this issue has been put on hold pending a broader review of general appeal provisions for tribunals, with no timeline for the issue to be progressed. The Law Society considers that delay in resolving this issue is unsatisfactory, and that there is a compelling case … for legislation to allow final ACC appeals to the Supreme Court to be introduced.”

The Ministers have responded that there is no plan to progress such reform at this time. The Justice Minister Amy Adams stated in her response of 16 August 2017:

“I acknowledge that the issue of reviewing appeal pathways to the Supreme Court has been put on hold, and currently there is no timeframe for progression. As you are aware, I have broad responsibilities as Minister of Justice. The portfolio is a large one with competing priorities, and many worthy issues have to wait their turn …

It is unlikely that work will progress on appeal pathways in the near future. However, I have asked my officials to consider your letter when they next provide advice on possible work programme items.”

As noted above, the Law Society considers there to be a compelling case for legislation to be introduced to allow final ACC appeals to the Supreme Court, and will continue to look for opportunities to raise this issue with future administrations.

Last updated on the 6th October 2017