At issue before the Georgia Supreme Court recently was whether to include a second job in determining the amount an employee should be paid after suffering a work-related injury at the first job. Under Georgia law, the average weekly wage is calculated by examining the employee’s earnings over the 13 weeks immediately before the injury. In the case before the Court, the injured employee argued that her second job, similar in nature to the jobbus at which she suffered a compensable injury, should be factored into her average weekly wage. The Supreme Court held that wages the employee earned in her second job in the prior 13 weeks before her injury should be factored into her average weekly wage, and therefore her workers’ compensation benefits.

Merita Thomas worked as a school bus driver with the Fulton County Board of Education since 2008. She drove buses during the nine months of the school year but received her salary over a 12-month period. During summer vacation, she worked at Quality Drive Away (“QDA”)as a driver of manufactured school buses from the Atlanta area to other parts of the country. Her employment there ended on July 30, 2011, and she returned to her position with Fulton County.

On October 19, 2011, Ms. Thomas was injured while working for Fulton County. She filed a workers’ compensation claim. The County did not dispute the compensability of her injury but did argue that the proper calculation of her weekly wage should not include her position as a driver at QDA.

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Employees injured or killed at work may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.  All employers with more than three employees are required by Georgia law to provide different types of benefits under the state workers’ compensation system. These benefits include wage and medical benefits, as well as permanent disability benefits for those who suffer from a permanent disability as a result of a work-related incident.  The State Board of Workers’ Compensation administers rules for all oxygenemployers in Georgia. Additionally, there are other organizations and agencies that protect the rights of workers, including the United States Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).

Recently, in Nashville, Georgia, a leading manufacturer of fiberglass boats was cited and issued proposed fines for one repeated and two serious safety violations.  A press release issued by OSHA stated that they initiated this follow-up inspection after issuing serious citations to the company in July 2013.

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Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed a workers’ compensation claim involving a “fictional new injury.”  This is an injury that takes place when an employee is hurt on the job but then continues to perform work duties until forced to stop by a worsened condition, partly due to the physical activity in continuing to work. In comparison, a “change in condition” is not caused by the continuance of work duties. In this recent appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the appellate court, which had found in favor of the injured employee.

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On August 13, 1993, Willie Barnes suffered an amputated left leg below the knee in an industrial accident at the Georgia-Pacific (“GP”) wood processing plant.  GP and its insurer accepted the claim as catastrophic and paid temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. After being fitted for a prosthetic leg, Mr. Barnes returned to lighter duty work.  The TTD benefits were replaced with permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits until May 1998.

After GP was bought by another firm, Mr. Barnes was laid off in 2009. Two years after that, Mr. Barnes received a new prosthetic limb, and the employer’s insurer paid for it.  In 2012, Mr. Barnes filed a claim to restart TTD benefits, asserting 1993 as the date of his injury.  Later, he filed a separate claim on the ground that he was now suffering a fictional new injury.  He claimed the date of the injury was the same as the date he was laid off.

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The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed whether the findings of an Administrative Law Judge in the Trial Division of the State Board of Worker’s Compensation should have been set aside as being contrary to law. At issue in this workers’ compensation case boasting a complex procedural history was whether a reviewing court had properly ruled on the termination of an injured worker’s benefits, and her status as no longer disabled.

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Donna Logan suffered injuries during the course and scope of her employment in Georgia. She was working for J&R Schugel Trucking, Inc.  Since her employer was located in Minnesota, Ms. Logan received workers’ compensation benefits according to Minnesota law.  A few months later, Ms. Logan’s benefits were suspended due to insufficient evidence of her disability.  Ms. Logan filed a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia to recommence her medical care and income benefits.

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The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation recently held that an employee was entitled to benefits following a workplace injury.  Additionally, the Board in this case found that the employee suffered wage loss and was entitled to temporary partial disability benefits because his injury resulted in decreased earnings.  In making their Calgary Roofing Contractors (1)determination, the Board reviewed the employee’s credibility as well as supportive medical evidence to reach these findings.

Employer in this matter had at least 12 employees, and the Board stated that Employer was therefore subject to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. Employee stated that he worked for Employer as a roofer, and on September 22, 2014, he fell 25 feet off the roof where he was working. He suffered injuries to his left ankle, left leg, left wrist, chest, and lower back. That day, or the following day, Employee notified his supervisor of the accident and his resulting injury.  The Board stated that Employer therefore had notice of the alleged workplace injury.

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The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed the necessary causal connection between a workplace injury and compensation under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act.  In Sturgess v. OA Logistics Services, Inc. et al., the court stated that because workers’ compensation provides an exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, the suffered injury must be connected to the workplace. In this case, the relative of a deceased worker argued that her son’s fatality did not arise out of his employment. The appellate court agreed that her tort claim for compensation should not be barred by workers’ compensation.

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Plaintiff Maria Sturgess appealed the lower court’s judgment that her wrongful death claim on behalf of her son was barred by the exclusive remedies set forth in the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”).  Ms. Sturgess’s son, Nickifor Zephyrine, worked for Staffchex, Inc. at a warehouse owned and operated by OA Logistics Services, Inc. (“OA”).  At the time of his death, Mr. Zephyrine was at work, and the issue before the appellate court was whether his death arose out of his employment.  

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The Georgia Court of Appeals recently held in Jasarevic v. Foster that statements made by a physician in his or her medical records that are pertinent and material to a workers’ compensation claim are privileged as a matter of law and therefore cannot serve as the basis for a claim of libel. doctor-2-1518263

Plaintiff Nedzad Jasarevic appealed from the trial court’s dismissal of his complaint against defendants Dr. John Foster and Dominion Orthopaedic Clinic. On appeal, Jasarevic contended that Dr. Foster committed libel by falsely accusing him of committing a crime and that the trial court therefore erred in dismissing his complaint. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling, reasoning that the statements were privileged, and as a result, Jasarevic could not prevail on his complaint.

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file0001991841864 morguefile taliesinAn Administrative Law Judge for the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation has ruled that an injured employee should recover medical benefits and attorney’s fees related to a workplace injury. In the case, a Georgia truck driver apparently injured his right shoulder while unloading 10 gallon buckets from his tractor-trailer in February 2014. Despite the pain in his shoulder, the driver purportedly deemed the injury to be minor and continued working. The next day, however, the trucker purportedly experienced additional pain while unloading a different trailer. According to the man, he reported the injury to the dispatcher with whom he had worked for about 10 years.

The following day, the driver again reported his shoulder injury to his dispatcher. The man stated he could not drive his normal route and also help unload the tractor-trailer, due to the injury. The dispatcher allegedly told the driver that he would do his best to swap out the injured man’s driving route with another trucker. Unfortunately, the worker was required to continue his normal route. The dispatcher also apparently told the driver he was required to see a doctor as soon as he returned from completing his truck driving duties.

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1-EG123 morguefile seogoigi.jpgThe Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled that a jury may apportion a percentage of fault to an employer that enjoys immunity under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act in a failure to warn case filed against a product manufacturer or distributor. In Walker v. Tensor Machinery, Ltd., a Georgia man was injured while operating a piece of machinery at work in August 2010. After obtaining workers’ compensation benefits from his employer, the man filed a lawsuit against the equipment manufacturer in the Northern District of Georgia. According to the hurt man, the manufacturer negligently failed to warn him about the safety defects in the equipment.

In response, the manufacturer sought to ask the jury to assign a percentage of responsibility for the injured man’s harm to his employer under OCGA § 51-12-33. The worker requested to exclude such evidence because a non-party employer was immune from liability under the exclusive remedy provision included in the workers’ compensation law. The Northern District then certified the question of whether a non-party employer’s percentage of fault may be taken into account in a damages lawsuit filed against a third party to the state’s Supreme Court.

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file000724514236 morguefile xianstudio.jpgIn Burdette v. Chandler Telecom, LLC, a Georgia employee was apparently hurt when he fell from a cellular telephone tower while working for a telecommunications company. As a result of his serious injuries, the man sought workers’ compensation benefits from his employer. Following a hearing before an administrative law judge and an appeal to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (the “Board”), the man’s request for benefits was denied. According to the Board, the man was barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits because he was injured while executing a controlled descent in violation of company policy.

On appeal before the Court of Appeals of Georgia, Third Division, the employee claimed the Board committed error when it found that he was ineligible to recover workers’ compensation benefits because his descent constituted willful misconduct under OCGA § 34-9-17(a). The worker also argued the administrative law judge who presided over his initial benefits hearing made several evidentiary rulings in error.
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