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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Supreme Court orders WCB to review claim for injuries

Injured ride technician . . . has spent nearly $50,000 on legal and medical bills . . . "the way I was treated [by the board] wasn't right."

Linda Nguyen, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - For almost seven years, Giovanni Cianelli's life has been a roller coaster of mounting debt from medical bills.

The 38-year-old ride technician at the Pacific National Exhibition has been fighting with the Workers' Compensation Board and its appeal tribunal ever since a 17,000-kilogram gondola struck him in the mid-back in July 2000.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has now ordered the board to review Cianelli's case again, after his claim was denied twice.

"I am optimistic this time around. I don't think they had all the information correct, so this is good news that I'm getting another review," the East Vancouver resident said of Friday's court decision.

Cianelli, who has worked at the PNE since high school, was unscrewing bolts on a suspended gondola when it began to move, knocking him to the ground.

He landed face down, injuring his forehead and nose and bruising his ribs.

It wasn't until he returned to work after a five-week absence that the pain started getting worse.

Cianelli, a father of two young girls, said he didn't realize how serious the pain was until he was taken to the emergency room because it began creeping from his feet up to his lower back.

According to court documents, the Workers' Compensation Board (which was re-branded WorkSafeBC) denied his claims in 2003 and 2006 because Cianelli's pain couldn't be attributed to the accident.

Justice Austin Cullen has ordered the board to look at new medical evidence in the review, and not just use the facts presented in the 2003 claim. Cianelli said he has spent nearly $50,000 on legal and medical bills, including biweekly physiotherapy and massage therapy visits.

But he's still happy to be back working full-time at the PNE for his 20th summer.

"I'm still struggling and sometimes I don't sleep at night. But the PNE has been supportive because they know I got injured badly and that the way I was treated [by the board] wasn't right," he said.

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© The Vancouver Sun 2007

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